"War on Terror" Going Better, Despite Pakistan Instability, Survey Finds

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 10:51 AM EDT


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the main US ally in the war on terror, resigned today under threat of impeachment. The news has Washington's nerves on end for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country in a volatile neighborhood, plagued by Islamic militants, and which has in the wings no obvious successor to Musharraf to help keep everything from unraveling.

Pakistan has long been the center of US attention when it comes to fighting Al Qaeda. Now, with Musharraf gone, the strategic alliance between the two will become all the more delicate and uncertain. It's one that Washington must not allow to go sour. According to a survey released today by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress, 69 percent of foreign policy experts polled now believe that Pakistan is the nation most likely to transfer nuclear weapons technology to terrorists; just 35 percent thought so last year. (Thanks to A.Q. Khan, it's already the world's leading distributor of the stuff to states seeking nuclear weapons, like Iran and North Korea.)

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McCain: As a Former Prisoner of War, I Like ABBA

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 10:03 AM EDT

Okay, so I know I'm treading in dangerous waters. But I found a great example of how John McCain's claim that he would never exploit his prisoner of war experience is more than a little bit phony.

McCain recently said that Dancing Queen, by ABBA, was his favorite song. Questioned by an incredulous reporter after making the selection, McCain pointed to his war service as the explanation:

Walter Isaacson: "What were you thinking?"
John McCain: "If there is anything I am lacking in, I've got to tell you, it is taste in music and art and other great things in life. I've got to say that a lot of my taste in music stopped about the time I impacted a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane and never caught up again."

Yes, I realized he's joking around. But McCain "impacted a surface-to-air missile" in 1967.

Dancing Queen was recorded in 1976.

The claim that McCain is a stoic war hero, too scarred to talk about his time overseas and too principled to exploit it for political gain, is a media narrative that has gone unquestioned for too long.

PS — Want to make clear that McCain has the right to talk about his war service all he wants, just as John Kerry did in 2004. But we collectively have to put to rest this myth that McCain chooses not to in an admirable and principled act of self-denial.

Pakistan's Musharraf Resigns

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 10:00 AM EDT

Facing prospective impeachment proceedings and under pressure from Pakistan's new ruling political coalition, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has resigned. "Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose," Musharraf said in an emotional hour long speech carried on Pakistani national television. "They don't realize they can succeed against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage." As army chief, Musharraf toppled Pakistan's president Nawaz Sharif in a coup in 1999, and ruled as head of Pakistan's powerful military and as the nation's president for eight years. Under mounting political pressure, he agreed to step down as military chief late last year. It's not clear who the new president will be. "We will continue to work with the Pakistani government and political leaders and urge them to redouble their focus on Pakistan's future and its most urgent needs, including stemming the growth of extremism, addressing food and energy shortages, and improving economic stability," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.

And John McCain, Former Prisoner of War, Had Oatmeal for Breakfast

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 9:28 AM EDT

Okay, so expect some action on the blogs about this today. At Saturday's presidential forum at Saddleback Church — the one I said wouldn't seep into Monday's news cycle unless there was a controversy — the moderator, Pastor Rick Warren, assured the audience that while he was questioning Obama, "we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence." The idea was that McCain, who was to be asked the same questions after Obama was finished, couldn't hear what was going on.

When McCain's portion of the event started, Warren began, "Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?"

McCain responded, "I was trying to hear through the wall."

In actuality, McCain was in his motorcade when Obama was being questioned, meaning he could have heard the first part of the event over the radio or gotten information via Blackberry.

But the fact that McCain may have had a slight advantage isn't what caught my eye. What did was how sanctimonious his campaign got when asked about the situation by the press. Here's the New York Times:

Kerry on the VP Shortlist? Really?

| Sat Aug. 16, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

Reportedly, John Kerry is being considered as Obama's VP.

I'm not buying it. This has to be a series of headfakes from the Obama campaign, right? Creating media speculation on different options — one week of Bayh, one week of Biden, one week of Kerry — keeps people talking about the choice for almost month. And ultimately, they can find a better choice than any of those three, meaning that even if the actual choice is flawed, people will still say, "Whew. Better than the other options, anyway."

But pretty soon they're going to be the campaign that cried wolf.

Veep Pick Sneak Peaks Sunday?

| Sat Aug. 16, 2008 2:29 AM EDT

Check out this line up. Among other interesting match ups on the Sunday talk shows, Virginia governor Tim Kaine and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal are slated to appear on "Meet the Press." Kaine tells the Washington Post that he was asked to appear by the Obama campaign.

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New (Leaked) Music: The Verve - Forth

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 7:11 PM EDT

mojo-photo-verveforth.jpgPeople think I'm an arrogant jerk, but I really do try to be nice. Honestly. My friends go crazy for Coldplay, and I try to focus on Brian Eno's epic production; buddies want to watch Roger Waters for three hours, and I'm a good sport and hang around. But The Verve has caused perhaps insurmountable rifts between me and my hipster pals. They love The Verve, and I think that other than the inspired sampling on "Bitter Sweet Symphony," Richard Ashcroft and co are dull as doorknobs, whiny, plodding, a fine example of Britishness covering up lack of ingenuity. Like Sigur Ros, they're lumped in with a genre populated by good and great bands, but they just don't measure up. The Verve split in 1999 after Urban Hymns brought them worldwide fame, but recently have come back together for a few live shows. Forth is their first album together in ten years, which leaked onto the intertubes this week.

Poor McCain, Even Jackson Browne and Mike Myers Are Against Him

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 6:33 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mccainwaynebrowne.jpgCan't somebody throw the guy a bone? John Mellencamp said "uh-uh," Chuck Berry said "sorry," even fellow politician John Hall (he wrote "Still the One") said "no dice." Only the Rich part of Big and Rich seems to care. Well, it turns out that the McCain campaign is just shooting the moon now, culturally speaking, throwing copyrighted material into their ads willy-nilly like a demented mash-up hooligan. I guess the Republican presidential nominee should take it as a compliment that people are still paying any attention, since a couple more artists have sued to make him stop. First up, Jackson Browne is none too happy about "Running on Empty" being used in ads for the senator, apparently without a license, filing suit against McCain and the Republican Party. A McCain campaign spokesman denied they had anything to do with it.

But they've got a bad track record: just a few days before, Mike Myers demanded the McCain campaign remove the "Wayne's World" clip from their "celebrity" anti-Obama ad. The campaign's Michael Goldfarb tried to make a joke out of it, blogging that "apparently, we are not, in fact, worthy." Ha, but overlooked is the fact that they put one of the most recognizable moments in Saturday Night Live history in a TV spot, and didn't think to call anybody? Could they possibly just be playing a cynical political game, breaking the rules intentionally just to get some coverage? Nah, they wouldn't do that. Well, hey, John, you kooky culture jammer, if you want to use some of my mashups in your commercials, you go right ahead. I'm sure the original artists whose rights I never bothered to get wouldn't mind…

Michael Ledeen Leaves AEI

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 6:03 PM EDT

Neoconservative historian and writer Michael Ledeen has left the American Enterprise Institute, his intellectual base for almost two decades, Mother Jones has learned. The decision for Ledeen, a veteran of the Iran contra affair, and AEI to part ways "has been in the works for a while" an associate who confirmed the recent departure describes. (Ledeen is no longer listed among the think tank's scholars).

For those who follow foreign policy events at the think tank, one might have noticed that Ledeen has been absent for the most part from many of AEI's public events for the past several months. From afar, one sensed that Ledeen may be too controversial for AEI's other scholars to want him to be the public face of the think tank in particular on Iran issues, an observation the associate described as reasonable. (See this and this for background). Ledeen did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

And yet, while AEI's in house team of foreign policy hands (Frederick Kagan, Danielle Pletka, etc.) has noticeably restrained itself from as aggressively publicly promoting a military option on Iran as might be expected, still it is home to those such as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton who says whatever he wants -- almost always predictably disparaging of a diplomatic solution to any crisis from North Korea to Iran. And as a longtime loyal home for many who were associated with the most hawkish positions of the Bush administration (Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Lynn Cheney and formerly her husband), it's hard to imagine that it was any extreme ideological position which would have prompted the departure. And Ledeen was described as always a good fundraiser for the think tank. So his departure is somewhat perplexing.

Ledeen is not alone in being scarcer at the influential think tank of late. Former Reagan administration Pentagon official Richard Perle is often in France and rarely makes public appearances at AEI any more; but there's no talk of Perle leaving AEI, although his role there is largely "emeritus" the associate described. Ledeen is now the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a small Washington think tank headed by former Republican National Committee spokesman Cliff May.

Update: Turns out Ledeen already mentioned the move from AEI to FDD at his own blog, Faster, Please!:

... I always thought it was stupid to go to Alaska in August. I love August in Washington, I adore hot and humid and so Washington is a dream come true for me. Plus, no Congress, which means much less traffic, and you can get tables in restaurants. Plus, I moved my office from AEI after twenty happy years, to Cliff May's rising Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. It seems a good fit, it puts me in the same sandbox as Andy McCarthy and other terrific people, and I love the email address: michael(at) I mean, that's what I'm all about.
So I've been packing and unpacking and cleaning out my files, throwing out two decades' worth of notes, urgent to-dos that ended up at the bottom of a pile, highlighted clips, you know. And finally it got done. Just in time to start a new book and sign up for a new parking lot. I'll be a better blogger for it.

In noting this post on Ledeen's move, Steve Clemons offers a priceless anecdote about how you can never really leave any of these think tanks.

World, Shut Your Mouth: The Horror of Public Radio Call-In Shows

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 3:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-calleryells.jpgMuch of the time, public radio is a calm, thoughtful oasis in the fart-joke maelstrom of commercial FM broadcasts. But at a certain point in the daily schedule, most public radio stations suddenly turn from interesting to irritating, filling time with that most lazy and obnoxious of programs: the call-in show. It's a high-minded ideal, letting the actual public on to "our" radio stations, but unfortunately, in every case, the public that presents itself is yammering and paranoid, either astonishingly bigoted or pathetically whiny, and the shows are unlistenable embarrassments. Why do public stations waste 1/6 of their day on them?

The other day, NPR's long-running Talk of the Nation attempted to address the issue of gays in the military. One caller drawled that "those people" knew the rules when they joined, so they deserve what they get, while another sobbed through an endless, baffling story about breaking up with her girlfriend or something, and I never figured out if she was actually in the military or not. All these shows are like this: hosts seem frazzled and nervous, dreading each call, stammering interruptions when the monologues get too crazy. And why hasn't anyone figured out how to signal a caller that they're now on the air without 60 seconds of am-I-on-yes-you're-on-do-you-mean-me-yes-go-ahead back-and-forth?