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The daily view from the oasis

January 2, 2004 PERMALINK
Fitzgerald Vs. Starr
(posted Jan. 2 12:45 AM ET)

The new special counsel in charge of the PlameGate investigation is US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

What's the insiders' take on him, as summed up by the NY Times?

...even Mr. Fitzgerald's former opponents in the courtroom say [he is] dogged, dispassionate and endlessly prepared...

...said George Santangelo, who represented John Gambino, identified by the authorities as a crime family captain, in a case prosecuted by Mr. Fitzgerald. "...If John Ashcroft wanted any favors on this one, he went to the wrong guy. This guy is tough."...

...David N. Kelley, a former colleague of Mr. Fitzgerald...said [he] always seemed to view himself as "an independent prosecutor" of any case he approached -- whatever the politics, whatever the players.

Nothing to worry about then, right? The case is in professional, diligent, apolitical hands.

Not so fast.

Go back to August 6, 1994, when the NY Times ("A Prosecutor Overnight") profiled brand new special prosecutor Ken Starr:

Few Democrats or Republicans who have worked with Kenneth W. Starr expressed any doubt today that he would be a fair and thoughtful prosecutor in the Whitewater case...

...A respected Washington insider and several times a contender for a nomination to the Supreme Court under Republican Presidents, Mr. Starr carries a reputation as a soft-spoken, even-tempered professional whose work is marked by thoroughness...

...Supporters of Mr. Starr, and they are many, say the former Solicitor General and Federal appeals court judge will be able to rise above both politics and his own inexperience to cast a balanced eye on a difficult inquiry...

..."He will be extremely thorough," said Alan Slobodin, the president of the legal studies division of the Washington Legal Foundation, a law and public policy group of which Mr. Starr is a member. "But it is not going to be a witch hunt."

Consistently described as judicious, balanced and fair-minded, Mr. Starr won accolades today from those who have worked both with and against him.

"If I was going to be a subject of an investigation, I would rather have him investigate me than almost anyone I can think of," said Arthur B. Spitzer, the legal director of the American Civil Liberty Union's [sic] Washington office.

"I don't have the feeling that he is a fervid prosecutor in the sense that he thinks that anyone accused of something must be guilty."

Though he has won a reputation as concertedly conservative, he wins the kind of praise rarely accorded those of pronounced ideology.

"There's a really small cast of people who have accumulated the kind of credentials he has," said Lincoln Caplan, author of "The 10th Justice,"...a book focusing on the office of Solicitor General.

"Such people prove their reliability to the culture by transcending rank partisanship. He managed to be consistently conservative without being sharp-edged."...

Oops. Just a wee bit off.

The point of bringing this up is not to lament that the fix is in.

In fact, LiberalOasis argued back in Sept. that even with John Ashcroft in charge the fix wasn't necessarily in.

The point here is two-fold.

1. Dems should not be lulled into toning down their rhetoric just because a guy with a decent rep is running the show.

Those with decent reps can still screw you (be it premeditated or otherwise) and can even lean on their decent reps to do it.

Fitzgerald may be all the things insiders say he is.

But he may not, as Starr was not.

And in either case, keeping up the outside pressure, by constantly reminding the public that there likely is a criminal in the Administration, will make it harder for his team to let anyone off easy.

2. When GOPers defend how great they are handling things by quoting that Fitzgerald is "independent" "dogged" and "dispassionate," Dems should not merely echo the Fitzgerald praise.

They should retort that Starr was once called "judicious, balanced and fair-minded."

The goal there is not to smear Fitzgerald -- he should be given a chance to do his job -- but to say the proof will be in the thoroughness of his investigation, not in what the insiders tell the NY Times.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 31, 2003 PERMALINK
There's Probably A Criminal In The Administration
Start Saying So
(posted Dec. 31 12:15 AM ET)

Back in October, LiberalOasis criticized the prez candidates for not pounding Bush on the PlameGate scandal in one of their debates.

It was a party-wide problem.

There were some Dem attacks at first, but they were reactions to media reports, largely driven by investigators leaking about The Leak. The Dems weren't driving the story.

So when the leaks stopped dripping, the Dems did nothing, there was no new news and the story faded.

They didn't learn the lesson from the 90s. Newt Gingrich once vowed to mention Monica in every speech.

He didn't follow through, but he set an aggressive tone that helped keep the story alive and keep Clinton on the defensive.

The lesson: Watergate is history. Nowadays, you can't just sit back and expect the media to get the job done.

When you have an opening, you have to push and push and push, whether there is new news or not.

There is also a lesson there about taking things too far.

Impeachment was a complete political misfire, and Newt paid the price for it with the end of his electoral political career.

But there's little worry about Dems going over the top. They're nowhere near the top.

Now, the Dems have a second bite at the apple.

Attorney General John Ashcroft's recusal from the PlameGate investigation, and appointment of a special counsel, brings the story back to the spotlight.

This is not the time to applaud politely and express pleasant surprise at Ashcroft's move. Don't take a crumb and treat it like a five-course meal.

It's the time for Dems to turn up the heat and say things like this:

"Ashcroft's recusal, welcome but three months late, is evidence of how disturbingly high this investigation goes.

"There is most likely a criminal working in the Administration who has compromised our national security.

"George Bush should have realized this six months ago, when the CIA agent's name was first published.

"Instead of immediately locating this cancer on his presidency and removing it, he has done nothing.

"Apparently, it doesn't disturb his so-called moral clarity that he may well be signing the checks of a criminal working under him.

"Deferring to the Justice Department and effectively saying, there's nothing I can do about it, is a political response, not a moral one.

"This alleged criminal most likely compromised our national security.

"Even more disturbing, there is evidence that this Administration continues to reveal classified information in the name of political retribution, further compromising our national security.

"Either George Bush should put a stop to this alleged criminal activity, or make public assurances that nothing criminal is happening on his watch. It's time to take responsibility."

And as Newt once vowed to say "Monica" over and over, Dems should be saying "criminal" over and over.

The Dem candidates are very focused on each other right now, which is understandable as they are in the home-stretch of the primary campaign.

But they should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

They can't take their eye off of Bush even while they debate each other.

This is a real scandal, and Bush is exposed. It's a big deal. Start acting like it.

True patriots should demand White House action. Smart politicians should take advantage since there isn't any.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 30, 2003 PERMALINK
Feeling Pressure
(posted Dec. 30 12:45 AM ET)

Earlier this month, LiberalOasis said:

For Dean to lose, he has to blow it big on his own, though the pressure of relentless attacks can increase the chances of that happening.

On Sunday, Dean let the pressure get to him a bit, as the NY Times reported:

Complaining about the torrent of attacks raining down on him from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean on Sunday criticized his party's national chairman, Terry McAuliffe, for not intervening to tone down the debate.

"If we had strong leadership in the Democratic Party, they would be calling those other candidates and saying, 'Hey look, somebody's going to have to win here,'" Dr. Dean...told reporters...

Referring to one of Mr. McAuliffe's predecessors, he added, "If Ron Brown were the chairman, this wouldn't be happening."

Now by themselves, comments like that won't sink Dean.

They'll make the rounds on various talk shows, but it's inside baseball stuff. Not what campaigns turn on.

But the remarks will have the opposite effect than what Dean probably intended.

They won't shut anybody up. On the contrary, they send a signal to his rivals that the attacks are getting to him.

That gives the other Dems a shot in the arm, and incentive to step it up.

(They have already made Dean's complaint a 2-day story.)

Again, this one incident is far from a Dean collapse.

Expect Dean to shelve the whining, grit his teeth, and parry the attacks as he has to date, with broad brush potshots at "Washington Democrats."

And his advantages -- money, organization, grassroots enthusiasm -- heading in to the home-stretch are still daunting, so much so that rival staff are giving self-defeating blind quotes to the W. Post (talk about "Washington Democrats," who hires these disloyal guys?)

As such, LO's assessment that a Dean nomination is a "near-certainty" hasn't changed.

But if a thin-skin persists, making Dean look weak and provoking him into saying something fatally unspinnable, all bets are off.

QUICK HIT

Clip 'n' Save Quotes

It's not just Arabs who are angry with the United States. It's worldwide.
-- Senior State Department official, NY Times, 12/29/03

[On Social Security,] officials shun public use of "privatization" -- it polls badly -- but privately use it to describe Bush's goal.
-- Wall Street Journal, 12/26/03

I'm furious. I'm aggravated. I feel violated. I feel used.
-- Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Eagle, whose military retirement was forcibly postponed for extended Iraq duty, W. Post, 12/29/03

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 24, 2003 PERMALINK
Is It Our Party Now?
(posted Dec. 24 12:30 AM ET)
(minor edits Dec. 24 11 AM ET)

As the year winds down, it's worth taking stock in how far liberals have come this year, and what it means for next year.

Last week, Dick Morris wrote the following in The Hill:

The probable nomination of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean marks a turning point in the modern history of the Democratic Party.

The left has taken over. The tail is no longer wagging the dog. The tail has mastered the beast.

That's a little hyperbolic.

But the essence of it is right. And we liberals should take the responsibility seriously.

Dean is not the reason for this development, but the result.

It arguably started in 2002, when congressional Dem leaders were rolled on the war, and rank-and-file Dems hit the party where it hurt, in the wallet.

As the W. Post reported back then:

Direct-mail donations to the DNC took a nosedive in August and September [2002], party officials acknowledge.

Several of them say a major cause is discontent over the acquiescence of many Democratic leaders to Bush's preparation for war with Iraq.

The party began to realize that they would pay for continued, self-defeating capitulation.

But it was Dean's campaign that best matched the discontent, and the rest is, almost, history.

Having said that, it's important to note that Dean is not a pure liberal, and not every liberal backs Dean.

In fact, a Gallup poll from early this month shows Dean with 40% support from liberal Dems.

That's far and away tops among liberals, and the reason he's the front runner. (He was a close second among moderates, 17% compared to 19% for Wesley Clark.)

Still, 40% is not 100%.

There are liberals who don't back him because of certain issue positions, and those who don't because they think he's a loose cannon who can't win in the end.

Nevertheless, a Dean primary win would be because of liberal support, and liberal money and grassroots energy would remain the fuel in his engine.

As such, the role of liberals in the party would be greatly strengthened.

Furthermore, a Dean win continues to be a near-certainty.

The latest thing that supposedly could have derailed him -- Saddam's capture and Dean's "not safer" response -- hasn't.

Yesterday's ABC/W. Post poll has Dean at 20% nationally among Dems just before the capture, and at 31% after, with all of his opponents in single digits.

LiberalOasis sticks with its earlier assessment: that Dean has to really blow it on his own to lose.

He has too much fervent support, money and organization for attacks alone to thwart him at this point.

And liberal readers, his probable win, whether you personally back him or not, is your probable win.

And our probable win, is also our responsibility.

While a Dean win in November may or may not be vindication for liberals, depending on how he runs a general election campaign, we will certainly shoulder the blame for a Dean loss.

Take Morris' analysis:

To win nominations, [Dems] must appeal to the extremists in their own party and move so far to the left that they become unacceptable to the mainstream of American voters.

A vicious circle sets in. Moderates, repelled by the liberal stances of the Democratic Party, will move to Republican ranks and abandon their Democratic affiliation.

This movement will empty the party's ranks of its moderates and make takeover by the left more likely and more permanent.

The path the Democrats are about to tread is the same that left them impotent in the elections of 1980, 1984 and 1988...

Such a doomsday attitude will be deep CW, initially.

For one thing, Dean will almost surely be behind Bush in trial heats right after he sews up the nod, as he is now.

The punditocracy and their whiny Beltway Dem brethren will say it's all over, forgetting that Bill Clinton was in third place in June of 1992, with a mere 24%.

For another, and let's be candid, what proof do we liberals have that we can be in charge and win? We haven't done it in decades.

LiberalOasis believes. But you can't expect those who don't describe themselves as liberals to automatically trust liberals with the keys.

No one buys the Florida Marlins can beat the New York Yankees, until they actually do it.

So, since we are very likely to be in charge, at least figuratively speaking, it's time to start acting like it.

The CW assumes (as Dick Morris does) that we are a loony fringe.

We are not, but others will pounce on anything that hints otherwise, as they already do.

That means in our words and our actions, we must always be cognizant that we are always speaking to more than just our fellow liberals.

We must phrase our arguments -- whether on TV, in the blogosphere, in letters to the editor, or in personal conversations -- in ways that find common ground and speak to the fundamental concerns and hopes of non-liberals.

When we publicly protest, as we surely will at the Republican convention, we should take a cue from the March on Washington, as one participant remembered:

Many of the men wore coats and ties; the women wore print dresses.

Their attire seemed impractical for a march and day long rally in Washington's summer heat and humidity, but the people on this train were on their way to conduct serious business.

This is also serious business. We should act like it, and look like it.

We are about to be collectively put in the hot seat. Get ready.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 23, 2003 PERMALINK
Ducking Libya
(posted Dec. 23 12:45 AM ET)

The collective Dem response to the news that Libya cut a deal to drop its WMD programs was sorely lacking.

There are understandable reasons for this.

It was a surprise announcement on a late Friday afternoon, not the easiest time to organize a response.

Congress is out of session for the holidays, so a lot of Dems are unavailable to strategize or to comment.

Prez candidates are focused on each other, and the Dem primary electorate isn't demanding them to go negative on the deal.

(John Kerry was alone in engaging in counterspin on Sunday, noting the deal was in the works since Clinton and was not a byproduct of the Bush Doctrine. Dick Gephardt basically applauded it. Others do not appear to have gone out of their way to comment.)

Most importantly, on the surface, the move is in line with Dem policy: exhausting diplomacy on thorny problems before considering war. So the attack routes aren't obvious.

But Dems should expect other "surprise" moves that look good on the surface between now and Election Day.

And they will need to find ways to quickly scratch the surface and put these moves under harsher scrutiny.

How could that be done in this case?

As noted here last week, there's already an opening to go after the Bushies for not learning the lessons of the past and myopically coddling dictators.

Can the Libya-WMD deal be put in this context? Yes, but it's admittedly a little tricky.

As Back To Iraq 3.0 notes, Libya's dictator still has a piss-poor human rights record, including torture and political assassinations.

And as Juan Cole notes, democratic reforms were noticeably absent from the agreement.

Why would Bush shelve his supposed desire for Arab and Muslim democracy when it comes to Qaddafi's Libya?

Aside from the requisite oil, Qaddafi has been dodging assassination attempts from radical Muslims for years.

As the NY Times Magazine reported back in Jan., that could explain why...

...[h]e was among the first Arab leaders to denounce the Sept. 11 attacks, and he lent tacit approval to the American-led invasion of Afghanistan.

To the astonishment of other Arab leaders, he reportedly shared his intelligence files on Al Qaeda with the United States to aid in the hunt for its international operatives.

''It is strange,'' he muses, with an enigmatic smile, ''as far as Libya is concerned, that we find ourselves today in one trench fighting one common enemy with America.''

So Bush found a new terror-fighting buddy. Never mind the past terrorism and current oppression.

This is one-half of the tricky part. Al Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorism is the number one threat. Shouldn't we be taking our help wherever we can get it?

Except that as George W. Bush recently said, to great neocon fanfare:

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.

As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.

If a Dem had made such a case, conservatives would guffaw and say he was soft on terror, unappreciative of the value of brute force to fight evil.

But now, in Bush's attempt to co-opt the liberal mantle of human rights and freedom, he allows Dems to make the human rights case as part of the terror war without coming across as soft.

And in this instance, using Bush's words would not be a case of me-too-ism. It would in the name of exposing Bush as a hypocrite who doesn't live up to his own ideals.

The second-half of the tricky part is North Korea.

Dems have pounded the table demanding a negotiated deal to dismantle their WMD program. Being critical of the Libya deal may also come across hypocritical.

The solution: be consistent.

Deals to get rid of WMD are good in and of themselves, regardless of the nation involved.

The question is to what end.

Beyond ridding the world of horrific weapons, the correct next step is to apply pressure that will lead to democratic reforms, not to look away from human rights abuses.

That's where Bush is potentially vulnerable on Libya. Not on the deal itself, but where he wants it to lead.

More democracy? Or more oppression that will only feed terrorism in the long run?

And since Libya is not the first nation where Bush is trashing his own stated ideals, Dems can establish a pattern of hypocritical, myopic behavior.

(Uzbekistan, as mentioned here last week. Tunisia and Yemen, according Juan Cole. Don't forget the bungled coup attempt in Venezuela.)

Granted, in the face of seemingly positive developments like the Libya-WMD deal, these kinds of arguments can be uphill ones.

But that's no excuse to duck. Just the opposite.

Dems must learn the lesson of 2002. You take a pass on the major issues of the day, you risk taking a pass on the whole election.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 22, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Dec. 22 1:30 AM ET)

So We Aren't Safer After All

The nation was put on Orange Alert a few hours after the main Sunday shows wrapped up.

Coincidence? Doubtful.

Joint Chiefs Chair Richard Myers had this exchange about threat levels with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Is there anything that you've seen serious enough in this latest intelligence that would indicate, perhaps, the threat level in this country should be raised?

MYERS: Oh, that'll be a decision for Secretary Ridge to make, and we'll be in discussions with him here in the next 24, 48 hours.

WALLACE: So this is something under active consideration?

MYERS: You bet.

WALLACE: Do you have...

MYERS: It's just -- well, it's Secretary Ridge's business.

But the Department of Defense does play a role in supporting federal agencies in this regard, and so we're discussing this right now.

Either Ridge lied to Myers and cut him out of the loop (pretty implausible) or Myers was playing dumb, knowing full well what was about to be announced.

Furthermore, this was no sudden decision. NBC Nightly News reported this has been bandied about for the last two weeks (with George Tenet pushing for it and Ridge resisting).

So why time the announcement for the afternoon?

To limit the tough questioning.

While Ridge took some questions from reporters after his announcement, in a press conference setting it can be easier to avoid follow-ups. Plus, you decide when the questioning is over.

And those nagging political questions, always on the mind of Sunday show hosts, weren't raised by the working stiff reporters on the weekend shift.

In particular, Wallace asked Myers this question, before the Orange Alert:

...it's been alleged that, even after the capture of Saddam Hussein, that it did not make Americans any safer and, in fact, that this country is not any safer than it was on 9/11. What do you think of that?

This of course is the Dean argument, for which he is taking a fair amount of heat.

But if the Orange Alert came in the early morning, before the shows, the question may have sounded more like this:

Isn't Howard Dean correct to say we aren't safer after Saddam's capture if you're raising the threat level and saying the Al Qaeda threat is "perhaps greater now than at any point since" 9/11?

In fact, the answer that Myers did give in response still lent credence to the Dean view:

I think, certainly, for those Americans, for those Iraqis, as a matter of fact, inside Iraq, it makes them a lot safer.

He only said the capture would setback the Iraqi insurgency. The general had no argument that the homeland was safer in any way.

Which is exactly the point that Dean made.

Carville Needlessly Fans Flames

Many of the candidates were on the shows, and for the most part, each continued on the paths they've been on.

Dick Gephardt on Fox News Sunday and John Kerry on CNN's Late Edition continued attacking Dean from the center-right on the war, both calling Dean's "not safer" view "ludicrous."

Wesley Clark, on ABC's This Week, continued his strategy of mostly staying out of the Dean crossfire, most likely thinking (like John Edwards) that he'll reap the benefits if the attacks succeed.

(Though Clark figured out a sly way to use Dean to get headlines without attacking him: say he turned down a Dean offer for VP, which Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, on the same show, denied.)

Agree or disagree with any of the above substance or tactics, it's all typical, in-bounds, primary politics.

What was much more disappointing was party elder James Carville, on NBC's Meet The Press, taking a swipe at Dean:

I think Governor Dean sort of lashed out at [Bill] Clinton, and I think his remarks about the capture of Saddam Hussein were probably not the most politically astute I've ever heard.

But, you know, he's not the only candidate...

...I think attacking Bill Clinton is not the way to get the nomination...

[And] I can take him right to the report of the 3rd Infantry Division, not whether or not we're better off if we captured Saddam Hussein. Of course the world is better off with Saddam Hussein in jail.

I think he can be a strong nominee, but he's got to learn to position himself better, and he's got to learn to pick better political fights.

But there is evidence that other people in the race are becoming stronger as we sit here and talk.

This is very uncharacteristic of Carville, to feed dissension within the party.

And it doesn't become him.

On the same show two weeks ago, Sen. Hillary Clinton understood her position in the party, didn't take any Dean bait and simply said she would support the nominee.

Granted, that was before Dean's alleged attack on her husband.

In his most recent domestic policy speech, Dean laid a vision for the party:

Some Democrats have accepted the Republican notion that the Social Contract cannot be preserved, let alone made stronger.

While Bill Clinton said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic party not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families.

I reject the notion that damage control must be our credo.

I call now for a new era, in which we rewrite our Social Contract. We need to provide certain basic guarantees to all those who are working hard to fulfill the promise of America.

It's understandable that one could interpret that, on its face, as a dig at Clinton. It's not the only interpretation, but one can see it.

But why publicly overreact?

The vision of where the party should go is spot on.

And he and his campaign immediately clarified his remarks and said the implicit criticism was aimed at Washington Dems currently in power, not Clinton.

His barbs at them are nothing new. (Dubya took some shots at his party in 2000 too. They got over it.)

It's one thing if other campaigns won't take Dean at his word, and try to drive a wedge between Dean and Clinton supporters. All's fair in a campaign.

But Carville fundraises on behalf of the DNC, and is seen as a face of the party.

Obviously he has the right to speak his mind.

But he has a unique standing in the party, and he doesn't do it any favors by fanning these flames.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein

GEORGE TENET: Well, we've finally got you, Mr. Hussein. You are finally the prisoner you should be.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: Hey, I know you.

TENET: What do you mean?

HUSSEIN: We met before, back in '85. I was buying anthrax from you guys.

TENET: No, that wasn't me.

HUSSEIN: Oh, that's right. It was Rumsfeld. How is ol' Rummy?

TENET: What?

HUSSEIN: How's Donald Rumsfeld? I haven't seen him in a goat's age. Well, on the news, but not in person.

Is he still drinking that weak Scotch? Heh, heh. Boy, are there things I could tell you about him.

Did he ever tell you about the time we were negotiating warhead sales, and he spilled his Cutty Sark on his crotch?

Looked like he had just urinated himself! Ahh, we all laughed at that one!

TENET: Mr. Hussein, please. I'm trying to interrogate you here.

HUSSEIN: Oh, ok. Sorry. It's just hard to be serious. I know all of you guys like old college friends. But go ahead.

TENET: Where are the weapons of mass destruction?

HUSSEIN: Which ones? The ones you guys sold me?

TENET: Yes. I mean, no...I mean -- Goddammit, just tell me where any of the weapons are.

HUSSEIN: You know I don't have any. I dismantled them after those irritating UN guys started poking around.

TENET: I don't believe you.

HUSSEIN: Whatever.

TENET: You -- you can't just dismiss this like that! I want to know where they are, now!

HUSSEIN: Did you look in the eastern-most farm area of Tikrit?

TENET: Yes.

HUSSEIN: What about the brothels in Mosul?

TENET: Yep, went there first.

HUSSEIN: Nothing?

TENET: No! Tell me where they are!

HUSSEIN: Heh, I was just having some fun. They aren't in Tikrit or Mosul. I told you, I got rid of them. I've been saying that all along.

TENET: Bullshit. We know you've been secretly saying you have still had weapons of mass destruction as a means of saving face with your allies and enemies.

HUSSEIN: Noooo. That was you guys saying that. I was saying I didn't have them at all.

TENET: Oh, I, yeah, it was us. Still, you must have SOME weapons. Tell me where any of them are.

HUSSEIN: You mean like handguns?

TENET: No, big ones! Weapons of mass destruction!

HUSSEIN: Nothing. All gone. I've been unable to conduct any mass destruction for over ten years now. And lemme tell ya, it hasn't been easy.

TENET: Well, what about any weapons of, say, slightly-less-mass destruction?

HUSSEIN: Nothing there either.

TENET: Weapons of slightly impressive destruction?

HUSSEIN: Nope.

TENET: Weapons of potentially. uh, damaging destruction?

HUSSEIN: No.

TENET: Weapons... of... umm... moderate personal injury?

HUSSEIN: A few rickety ladders... maybe some rakes we left lying around that someone could step on....

TENET: What about flammable items? You must have had some flammable items. Kerosene? Rubbing alcohol? Charcoal briquettes?

HUSSEIN: Oh, now you're just embarrassing yourself.

TENET: Dammit, Hussein, I need something to take to the big man! Help me out here!

HUSSEIN: I may have some receipts.

TENET: What the hell good will that do me? You're saying you have weapons of mass paper cuts?

HUSSEIN: No, stupid. I mean I have receipts that show I sold all my WMD's to other countries. That would probably satisfy your boss.

TENET: Ohh.. Hey, that's good. I can use that. Who'd you sell to?

HUSSEIN: Uzbekistan. Chile. I think maybe Miami.

TENET: Miami? Who'd you sell to in Miami?

HUSSEIN: Alpha 66.

TENET: Shit.

HUSSEIN: What's the matter? I thought you'd be happy. I'm giving you irrefutable evidence of the weapons trail.

TENET: Can't use any of it.

HUSSEIN: Why not?

TENET: You sold it all to our allies. Those guys are allowed to have WMDs. Did you sell to any really, really bad countries?

HUSSEIN: I thought I just told you I did.

TENET: No, I mean countries we treat as bad officially, not bad countries we like. Maybe Syria?

HUSSEIN: Nope.

TENET: Iran?

HUSSEIN: Please.

TENET: China?

HUSSEIN: Okay, now you're being silly.

TENET: You've given me nothing here. I got nothing. Dubya's gonna have my ass on a plate.

HUSSEIN: Hey, you know the drill. That's how it goes. You guys sold me the stuff, you should have thought about it first.

TENET: Well, hell, that's statecraft.

HUSSEIN: Are you going to eat that Milano? I love those things. The mint is the best.

TENET: Screw it. Turn off the tape recorder. We're not getting anywhere with this.

HUSSEIN: The vanilla's pretty good, too.

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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