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Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

July 2, 2004 PERMALINK
For Liberals, It Doesn't Matter Who The Veep Is
(posted July 2 1:15 AM ET)

According to some accounts, John Kerry will select his VP in the middle of next week (though the Kerry folks have denied this).

The political journos are acting as if nothing else matters in this race until the pick is picked.

(Why write about issues when you can sit around and aimlessly gossip for your paycheck?)

But as LiberalOasis has said before: Bush I picked Quayle, Dukakis picked Bentsen.

That's how much the VP pick usually matters to the final outcome.

But that's about near-term winning and losing.

What about policy? Should liberals be looking at the choice as an indicator of how Kerry will govern?

No.

In recent history, when a candidate selected a VP to go beyond his ideological base, the VP had no impact on the direction of the Administration.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was seen as a moderate, even somewhat conservative, which was not the leaning of the Dem Establishment at the time.

To reach out, he chose Sen. Walter Mondale, a traditional liberal.

It may have helped him win.

But once in office, liberal leaders in Congress remained displeased with his governing philosophy (and probably his style as well).

And that prompted Ted Kennedy to run at him from the left in a debilitating 1980 primary.

Also in 1980, Ronald Reagan tried to soften his hard-edged conservatism by picking his vanquished rival, moderate George H.W. Bush.

But it was Bush who then moved to the Right, not vice-versa.

The point is, no matter who the VP is -- be it John "Two Americas" Edwards or Evan "Do You Want to Vent or Govern" Bayh -- it's the president that charts the course.

And the $100M that came from the grassroots will have more impact on the course than the veep.

July 1, 2004 PERMALINK
Michael Moore and the Pipeline
(posted July 1 2 AM ET)
(minor edits July 2 1:15 AM)

LiberalOasis hasn't spent any time defending Michael Moore, mainly because he doesn't seem to need the help.

But it's worth examining the harsh reaction he's getting for raising the notion that the Afghan war had more to do with helping companies score a gas pipeline deal than getting bin Laden.

NYT's Nick Kristof likened it to when "right-wing nuts" accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of murder.

The American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias called it "deplorable."

The National Review's Byron York derided it as "fantastical theory."

What did Moore do exactly?

He first asks aloud "was the war in Afghanistan really about something else?"

Then he lists a number of facts:

That in 1997, Taliban leaders met with Unocal execs to explore building a natural gas pipeline that would run from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan.

That when Unocal signed a deal to go forward, Halliburton (headed by Cheney at the time) got a Caspian Sea drilling contract the same day.

That Enron also stood to benefit from the deal.

That after the war, the new Afghan prez we helped install and the US envoy to the counry were both former Unocal advisors.

Then Moore caps the segment with:

Faster than you can say Black Gold Texas Tea, Afghanistan signed an agreement with her neighboring countries to build a pipeline through Afghanistan carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea.

Oh, and the Taliban? Uh, they mostly got away. As did Osama bin Laden and most of al Qaeda.

(Quotes from the right-wing Moorewatch site.)

Now, Moore leaves the impression that he thinks the war was all about the pipeline, though he doesn't say it outright.

And the debunkers can easily point to things to show how the pipeline theory doesn't wash.

For example, York notes Unocal pulled out of the pipeline deal well before the war in '98.

And Yglesias points to an earlier TAP article that says even though Afghanistan signed a '02 agreement with Turkmenistan and Pakistan to build that pipeline, "no major energy firm has expressed any interest in working with the three countries."

So is that it? Moore's a crank? Nothing to see here?

Not so fast.

The fact is, the facts that Moore presents don't only point to a crazy conspiracy theory, they also point to the tangled web of oil and gas politics in the Caspian Sea region.

It's a region our government certainly cares about.

An August report from the Dept. of Energy says:

The Caspian Sea region, including the Sea and the states surrounding it, is important to world energy markets because of its potential to become a major oil and natural gas exporter over the next decade.

However, this potential has been complicated by several factors, including a lack of adequate export infrastructure, disagreement over new export routes, and border disputes between the littoral states. [emphasis added]

And this past March, Gen. Charles Wald, Deputy Commander of the US European Command, made comments about our interest in the region that rattled Russia.

This is from an interview with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny by Turkmenistan.ru:

Q: Last week...General Charles Wald said the Caspian was in the sphere of US interests and that Washington was ready to help ensure the security of the region.

What is your view of the US participation in the resolution of Caspian problems?

KALYUZHNY: All Caspian problems have to be solved by the countries of the region themselves in a family way, without mediators.

An external factor will only create additional problems.

It would be interesting if Russia said it had some interests in the Great Lakes region or even appointed its special representative. How would the White House respond to that?

We have to understand one thing: the US interest in the Caspian region is associated only with oil.

Is that just Russian trash talk?

Doesn't look like it. Here's Gen. Wald, speaking at an American Enterprise Institute event a month later:

Some of our petroleum friends have left for the day, but I will tell you that in the Caspian Sea, if you think the Gulf of Guinea is important--which I do, by the way. I'm going to talk about it--the Caspian Sea is important as well.

And British Petroleum has a consortium of 20 different countries and agencies that are developing the oil in the Caspian Sea, $20 billion over the next 5 years...We think that's an important area...

It's not just Russia we're trying to check in the region, but also Iran.

This Moscow Times book review of "The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia" from last month says:

[Author Lutz] Kleveman underscores the many compromises that the developed world -- and the United States, in particular -- has made in the name of oil or one of its auxiliary ends:

[C]ozying up to the strong-arm antics of Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, ignoring the catastrophe of Chechnya, and looking the other way as [Kazakhstan Prez] Nursultan Nazarbayev rewrites the book on corruption in cahoots with American oil companies...

...Meanwhile, Kleveman suggests that the answer could be found in Iran, if only handled the right way.

A Persian pipeline would be a significant improvement on the current options -- Russia, the South Caucasus, Afghanistan, all of which have been the subject of endless political machinations -- as it would be shorter, cheaper and safer.

But these are pipe dreams, he admits, given present perceptions of the United States.

"The Americans and their double standards: We Iranians have a more open democracy than any of the Arab sheikhdoms with whom the Americans are aligned!" complains a newspaper editor in Tehran whom Kleveman interviews.

As you can see, the Bushies care about more than just a single pipeline.

They care about the oil and gas in the whole region, as well as expanding their sphere of influence there.

But what about that pipeline? Is it an Elevator To Nowhere like The American Prospect said?

The US doesn't think so.

A US diplomat told a Turkmenistan pub that "implementation of the project would play an important role for stabilizing and prosperity of Afghanistan."

In turn, according to an 2/27/04 AP dispatch from Turkmenistan, the government there ("one of the most repressive governments in the world" according to Human Rights Watch) is pressing ahead with preliminary work.

Unocal and other US companies may not be risking any investments at the moment.

But if things go well, they will surely want a piece of the action. And we would likely steer the business their way.

So the facts that Moore raises are helpful to understanding what is going on.

The fact that Unocal, Enron and Halliburton have been interested in the pipleline before, and that Hamid Karzai used to work for Unocal, doesn't mean the war was solely fought for these specific companies.

But it does show that Karzai was part of the elite oil and gas game, and in turn, someone that knew the business the Bushies were most concerned about.

It all speaks to what the long-term interests in the region have been and continue to be.

It helps make an argument that the Bushies may well have been content installing an oil-friendly leader, and temporarily dispersing the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Remember, the Bushies were not impressed with the capacity of a stateless terror operation. It was the rogue states like Iraq, Iran and N. Korea they were focused on.

They may have figured Osama couldn't do much damage without a state sponsor, thinking that Iraq was the bigger fish anyway.

The point is: Moore is on to something.

It may be not be exactly what it looks like.

It may not even be what was in Moore's head (though he may have a more nuanced view on the matter for all we know.)

Moore was careful not to go too far and say something he couldn't prove (or things already disproven, like that the US threatened the Taliban with military action before 9/11).

Moore merely raised facts and made comparisons he found suspicious.

You can lambaste him for playing an insinuation game if you want.

But if you look away from the info, you may miss the bigger picture.

June 30, 2004 PERMALINK
Kerry: In His Own Words
(posted June 30 12 AM ET)
(minor edit June 30 12:45 PM ET)

Today marks the end of the last full quarter John Kerry can accept private donations (he can no longer take in or spend such money once he is nominated on July 29).

In honor of this, LiberalOasis would like to highlight parts of the speech Kerry gave yesterday to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which aired live on CNN.

In part because you will no doubt come across folks during the campaign who will say things like, "why doesn't Kerry ever talk about" this issue or that problem.

When it may well be that he has.

But the media hasn't bothered to call attention to it, let alone explore in detail those positions he's trying to highlight.

Below are some fine extended nuggets from yesterday's speech, sure to inspire you to give to Kerry via LO, let him know where his support is coming from, and help keep the momentum going.

On Minimum Wage and Living Wage

The minimum wage is the lowest it has been in America since Harry Truman was president in 1949 and we hear the same old arguments we've heard since 1949.

And every time we've passed an increase in the minimum wage, America's done better, notwithstanding those arguments.

When I'm president, the first thing we're going to do is start to raise that minimum wage to $7 an hour and allow people in America to be able to work and get out of poverty for the work that they do.

But it's not limited to minimum wage...you've got to start talking about a living wage that so many mayors are beginning to talk about.

On Health Care as a Right

We're the only industrial nation in the world that doesn't yet understand health care is not a privilege for the wealthy or the elected or the connected.

It is a right for all Americans and we're going to make it available to all Americans.

And George Bush, he's had four years as president to offer leadership.

He doesn't even talk about it. He doesn't even have a fake plan, ladies and gentlemen, which is normally where they are. He has no plan.

And so we've got 44 million Americans who have no care and we have costs going up for everybody in the country...

...I'm going to make certain we put in place the principle that that health care that senators and congressmen give themselves and you pay for -- it ought to be available to every American.

On Disenfranchising African-American Voters

Don't tell us that it's the best we can do [when] in the last election...2 million votes weren't even counted.

Don't tell us that, when voters who were duly registered and they turn up to vote and they find out that their names have been purged wrongly from the list, or when they show up to vote and they're told, we don't have you registered because the registry makes mistakes.

Don't tell us that people who are harassed and intimidated from going to the polls, something we thought we resolved in the 1960s and it still happens in the dawn of the 21st century...

...We can do better, and we will do better this time.

On Unemployment and Underemployment

African-American unemployment is now at 10 percent, double the rate for whites.

In New York City, 18 up to 30, 50 percent, the African-Americans are unemployed. We can do better...

...America's increasingly being underemployed. And while they're being underemployed, this administration's fight is not to create the new high-value added job that lifts people up.

This administration's fight, unconscionably and wrongly, is to try to reduce Americans' ability to win overtime pay.

And we're not going to lose a 40-hour work week in the United States of America.

On Economic Fairness

If you look at the share in America -- workers shares in America of the national income is at the lowest level in American history. That's just stunning.

I read that the other day and I just scratched my head, and I said, "What is going on?"...

...And the spread between the haves and the have-nots is getting bigger.

There are more working poor in shelters today. There are more working poor. There are more homeless.

And you have to ask yourself: How can we be the richest country on the face of the planet and be pushing backwards against the right of an American worker to be able to actually do better in life?

On Investing in Children

It is long since time that we stopped being a nation content to spend $50,000 to $70,000 a year to house a young person in prison for the rest of their life.

Rather than invest $10,000 or $11,000 a year in Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, after school programs, and give kids full citizenship for a lifetime.

On Education for Girls

Early on, too many kids are steered away from math and science by their teachers, by their parents, or by friends.

Too many are told, "Oh, you're not good at this" or "You're not good at that" or "It ain't the cool thing to do, so don't do it."

In fact, surveys show that in the fourth grade, girls and boys are actually equally interested in math and science.

But by time they get to the eighth grade, twice as many boys want to go into math and science careers. It's something that happens in the culture in between.

As president, I will give all Americans, especially women and minorities, the same encouragement, and we have to give it early on...

...To get girls and minorities engaged in math and science, we're going to fund special programs in the middle school and the high school...

...It's also time that we make a major effort to address the subtle discrimination and low expectations that cause too many young women to believe that math and science is somehow not for them.

As president, I intend to also support all-girls' schools designed specifically to prepare girls for careers in science and math.

On Optimism and Pessimism

This administration says this is the best economy of our lifetime. They say this is the best that we can do.

They have even called us pessimists because we dare to tell the truth about people in Appalachia.

We tell the truth about people who don't have health care.

We tell the truth about children being left behind.

We tell the truth about what's happening to seniors who can't afford prescription drugs and live on Social Security.

Well, I say the most pessimistic thing that you can say is that we can't do better in the United States of America.

Don't tell us that 2 million jobs lost is the best that we can do when we know that we can create millions of new jobs, and many of them we can create tomorrow if we would invest in our cities and our schools and our communities.

We could do better, and we will.

June 29, 2004 PERMALINK
Let Freedom Reign?
Try, Setting Freedom Back
(posted June 29 12 AM ET)

Back to Iraq 3.0 beat the W. Post by 24 hours, with this Sunday dispatch:

Iraqis want martial law...They just want some peace and quiet.

"The security system must be solved," said Kais Yahya, 24, a recent graduate from Baghdad University's medical college. "It was supposed to be democracy, but instead it was chaos. They should have done some non-democratic things."

This is hard to write, but I've come to the conclusion that after a year of horror and insecurity, the average Iraqi doesn't want freedom.

They want a set of laws that they can live with, do business under and raise their kids.

If it takes a benign dictator to do that, then they're more than happy to have one.

On Monday, the W. Post echoed:

The democracy introduced by U.S. occupation authorities is a fine ideal, [car parts importer Saad] Sarraf said, but it may have been taken too far.

For instance, the proliferation of new newspapers, each one criticizing and opining, he said, is not the democracy Iraqis had in mind.

"This is democracy, but what kind of democracy?" he asked.

"All those people who were keeping their mouths shut, now for the smallest thing, they just yell and scream. If God Himself came down to Earth, someone would find fault with him."

Some in Washington are cheering because a poll commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority is giving the new prime minister and president sky-high ratings.

For example, on CBS' Face The Nation this Sunday, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said:

If you look at the drastic change in the polling data, in terms of whether or not the Iraqi people believe they have a shot of having a government now, the answer is yes.

It's completely flipped...there's been a psychological change. This is a new starting point.

And on ABC's This Week, NY Times' David Brooks appeared to lean on those same results:

I think there's become some cause for optimism in Iraq...Allawi and his government seems to have some reservoir of faith from the Iraqi people...

Back to Iraq 3.0 concurs with this, but Juan Cole, commenting after the surprise handoff, isn't buying:

Allawi is not popular and was not elected by anyone in Iraq.

The Kurds were sullen today.

There were no public celebrations in Baghdad. When people in the Arab world are really happy, there is celebratory fire.

They are willing to give Allawi a chance, but that is different from wholehearted support.

In a sense, everyone here can be right.

That Iraqi support for Allawi is not based on love, but on the desperation and exhaustion from a beaten down people.

As Warblogging notes, the Bush hope is that Allawi can crack down with martial law in a way that Paul Bremer couldn't.

And Back to Iraq 3.0 and the W. Post reports indicate that some Iraqis are looking for Allawi to do just that.

The open question is, how much do Iraqis want it?

Enough to fight the insurgency themselves? Enough to weather future setbacks without turning on their new appointed CIA-connected leader?

But whether or not a crackdown leads to short-term stability, it seems to LiberalOasis that the larger goal has already been lost.

Of course, liberals never believed the Bushies were sincere about their freedom and democracy rhetoric, but much of that rhetoric was on point.

An enfranchised Arab-Muslim world would simply not be a breeding ground for terror, as the current oppressed and impoverished one is.

Now that our high-profile attempt at bringing democracy resulted in civilian deaths, prisoner abuse, inability to deliver basic services and failure to provide security, Iraqis appear increasingly disinterested in the whole concept.

(And who could blame them?)

Granted, it's their country and their call (if they ever get a real chance to make it) to decide their form of government.

But if they turn their backs on any form of democratic governance for the false promise of easy stability, they will suffer in the long-run.

As will we.

QUICK HIT

Ralph Reed: Gambling Man

The latest issue of The Nation has a big scoop about the famed Christian Right leader Ralph Reed, now one of Bush's campaign chairs.

But it has received little attention, probably because the weblink is subscriber-only. (Though Janeane Garofalo noted it on Air America last night.)

Here it is. Spread the word:

When Ralph Reed was the boyish director of the Christian Coalition, he made opposition to gambling a major plank in his "family values" agenda, calling gambling "a cancer on the American body politic" that was "stealing food from the mouths of children."

But now, a broad federal investigation into lobbying abuses connected to gambling on Indian reservations has unearthed evidence that Reed has been surreptitiously working for an Indian tribe with a large casino it sought to protect--and that Reed was paid with funds laundered through two firms to try to keep his lucrative involvement secret...

...[A casino lobbyist] says, "He wanted to be able to deny it. Or if it came out, he wanted to be able to claim he was against the Jena casino, without anybody knowing he was getting paid by a bigger tribe with a bigger gambling operation."

June 28, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted June 28 12:45 AM ET)

Anonymous Lays It Out

The CIA official who wrote the new book "Imperial Hubris" under the name Anonymous continued his media tour with an interview on ABC's This Week.

In this exchange with George Stephanopoulos, Anonymous starkly lays out the situation we face:

ANONYMOUS: We first, ourselves, have to come to the conclusion that it is our policies that are driving this war, and decide whether we want to pursue them.

Right now, until we get to that point, the only option we have is the military option.

And it's not a good one, but America must be protected.

Our choice, at the moment, is not between peace and war. It's between war and endless war.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that means we have to be prepared to fight far more brutally than we have so far.

ANONYMOUS: I think without question.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Won't that turn the entire Muslim world against us?

ANONYMOUS: I think that the Muslim world is pretty well set against our policies...

...But the question again comes back to: what do you do?

Does the United States of America allow its citizens, its infrastructure to be attacked, and not go overseas and try to destroy that enemy?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But where do we go? Who do we kill?

ANONYMOUS: Certainly we missed a huge opportunity in Afghanistan.

I think you're going to be faced with that question very soon, if not already, in Iraq...The choice will come at some point to either wipe out that insurgency or to leave...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But by trying to wipe out the insurgency, don't we then create many thousands, hundreds of thousands, of more followers because of the indiscriminate nature of the killing?

ANONYMOUS: It's kind of a Catch-22 isn't it?

It's a very difficult situation. When you leave yourself only the military option it becomes a nightmarish situation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So it's lose-lose now?

ANONYMOUS: Right now, sir, it's a lose-lose situation.

Anonymous appears resigned to war.

But as he noted at the top, we can avoid having nothing but bad military choices if our policies change.

What policies? Over on NBC's Meet The Press, Newt Gingrich inadvertently provided some guidance.

Russert played Newt a clip of an earlier NBC interview with Anonymous, where he calls the Iraq war a "Christmas gift" to Osama.

Newt responded:

If you read his book, is much more complicated than just that quote.

He basically suggests that unless we're willing to give up the oil fields --

[Apparently, we own the Middle Eastern oil fields!]

-- we're willing to abandon Israel, we're willing to abandon every major government in the Arab world that we are in a total war with bin Laden, that we have to either win or die.

To translate:

1. If we're willing to develop alternative, renewable energy sources so we don't have to rely on Middle Eastern oil;

2. If we're committed to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a true honest broker;

3. If we really believe in all that democracy stuff and stop propping up the dictators we deem as friendly;

4. Then maybe we can actually prevent this from becoming a perpetual war between civilizations.

Letting Zarqawi Go

Stephanopoulos, when interviewing Condi Rice, had the spine to bring up an earlier report that the Administration could have taken out Zarqawi, now Terrorist #1 in Iraq, before the war.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in 2002 and 2003, the United States had evidence that he was going to a camp, a weapons and training camp up, in northern Iraq.

They actually placed him there at times, there were plans to attack that camp, yet they were put off.

Do you regret now, was it a mistake, not to take out that camp when you had a chance?

RICE: Let me just say we never had, as far as we know, we never had a chance to get Zarqawi.

That camp was taken out at the beginning of the war against Iraq.

The poisons network was largely broken up through other means, parts of it broken up in Europe.

While her initial statement is a blanket denial, her following comments do nothing to support it.

The fact that the camp was attacked during the war has nothing to do with her office's role in shelving three separate attack plans from June '02 to Jan. '03.

As NBC Nightly News reported (via Crooked Timber):

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late ÷ Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone.

Furthermore, even if elements of the poison network were busted up in Europe, it doesn't excuse leaving alone the ricin and cyanide lab suspected to be at the Kirma camp.

So don't let White House defenders get away with claiming Condi has knocked down the NBC report. She has done no such thing.

Who Is This War Between Again?

I think the president has to say to the country the truth, which is this is going to be a long war.

It's a war between civilization and barbarism.

The people who slit the throats and cut off the heads of television with happiness would kill millions of Americans.
-- Newt Gingrich, Meet The Press, 6/27/04

The [new Iraqi] defense minister, Hazim Shaalan, is a former banker who more recently worked as a real-estate agent in London.

"After June 30," said Shaalan, "we will hit these people and teach them a good lesson they won't forget. Americans and allied forces have certain restrictions we won't have."

He declined to be more specific, except to say, "It's our country, it's our culture, and we have different laws than you do."

(A few days later, after yet another suicide bombing, he was more blunt: "We will cut off their hands and behead them.")
-- Newsweek, July 5, 2004 issue

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

Things To Do With Chalabi Now That The Pentagon Is Done With Him

Many Americans awoke a few days ago with the heartbreaking news that Iraqi exile and Iraqi National Congress founder Ahmed Chalabi is a "con man."

Those of us who read the occasional dissident press of the Europeans knew --- as far back as pre 9/11 days --- that Chalabi had been convicted of bank fraud in Jordan and sentenced in absentia for 22 years, and that his word was less than trustworthy.

Now, thanks to our state-run me... erm, I mean "aggressive free press," all Americans have finally been told about Chalabi's dark past.

That the release of this news to the American press coincides with the White House's reversal of position on Chalabi is, I suppose, just a really, really weird coincidence.

But pity poor Chalabi! Here was an Iraqi leader who had been supported by the Pentagon for decades and thought he was going to take the place of the last Iraqi leader who was supported by the Pentagon... but, alas, the twists of Fate are meandering, thorny brambles.

I did some poking around, though, and found a lot of people still have a warm place in their hearts for our little bean-headed buddy from Baghdad.

Assuming Chalabi escapes without a chemical glow stick inconveniencing his posture in any way, let's look at some future career possibilities for Iraq's prodigal son.

1) TELEVISION

CBS executives have already been trying to get communications over to Chalabi's office, asking him to host their new reality television series, "I'm A Former Dictator, Get Me Out of Here!"

The premise of the show is that various nefarious international leaders (Hussein, Pinochet, Kissinger) are abandoned on a desert island until only one remains. The winner will get to rule Burkina Faso.

CBS feels Chalabi "has the right stuff" for hosting the show, seeing as how he "has unprecedented experience in handling rulers of various nations across the world."

It's also thought that Chalabi may "add some excitement" to the program by enticing the dictators to do various ratings-enhancing stunts, like resorting to cannibalism or (worse yet!) denouncing conservatism in exchange for chocolate.

2) POLITICS

There may yet be a role for Ahmed Chalabi in the Bush administration!

Sure, his international street cred may be in tatters, but that takes nothing away from his ability to sway policy makers with only the most scant bits of evidence and huge gobs of deception.

Such traits would do him well on the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign team, where the American people will occasionally need to be convinced that destroying Iraq, alienating the UN, polluting the US Constitution with discriminatory amendments, ignoring the Geneva Convention and ruining the US economy are actually "compassionate" deeds, making the nation better than it was under that evil sicko Clinton.

If anyone can spin Bush's record to the general public, it's the guy who convinced Colin Powell that an abandoned Iraqi trailer park was an active nuclear weapons facility.

3) FINANCE

With his Bush family connections, Ahmed can probably turn his Jordanian conviction to his advantage.

After all, Dubya had problems with Harken, Arbusto and the Texas Rangers. Jeb caused the Florida S & L collapse. Neil had the Silverado Savings & Loan debacle. And Poppy Bush topped them all with the BCCI scandal.

If anything, Chalabi's work is downright quaint compared to his patrons.

Given that, perhaps Chalabi could put his white collar criminal past to good use and gain a position of power like the Bushes... perhaps replacing Dick Grasso at the NYSE?

4) CARTOONS

Ahmed Chalabi left Iraq at age 12, studied at Chicago University and MIT --- but he still has that funky, broken-English accent!

How's that, you ask? Unbeknownst to many, Chalabi is a skilled voice actor.

In fact, a Freedom of Information Act request discovered that Chalabi's vocal talents have been heard on The Simpsons (he's Dr. Nick), Batman (he's Alfred the butler) and Kim Possible (he's Kim.)

He's even overdubbed quite a few Asian films, including a new release of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (he was the ugly ronin) and Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (he was the old scientist.)

With this impressive resume already on his record, is there any question that he won't take advantage of what he once called "an amusing hobby" and turn it into a lucrative career?

The producers of Toy Story 3 are already sending offers, I'm told.

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.

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