CNN’s Inside Politics Covers Byrd’s Nazi Remarks

CNN jumped into the fray over Senator Robert Byrd’s Nazi reference in its Inside Politics look at the blogs. Hugh Hewitt played the segment on his show tonight as Judy Woodruff, Jacki Schechner, and Abbi Tatton reviewed the Byrd scandal through CQ and Radioblogger:

WOODRUFF: … Time now to check what’s going on in the blogosphere. And with me once again today to talk about what they are talking about, CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner. She’s our blog reporter.
So, Jacki, I bet it’s not baseball.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: No, it’s more like Byrd. We’ve already heard what Senator Robert Byrd said on the floor of the Senate, comparing Republican tactics to Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. Conservative blogs all over it.
Over at Captain’s Quarters, he’s got plenty to say, including this comment: “Byrd, with his attempted filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the last person who should be standing in the well of the Senate calling anyone a Nazi.” As some people may remember, that filibuster [lasted] 14 hours.
ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: So the conservative bloggers linking to this last night, and outraged for a couple of reasons. First of all, the comments by the senator himself, like what he actually said, but also the coverage of those comments. Radio Blogger here looking at how the mainstream media has covered what Senator Byrd said. He goes through newspapers, cable news channels, left-wing blogs, other news channels as well, saying that there’s no mention of Byrd.

Kudos again to Inside Politics for reporting on the stories making the rounds on the blogs, even when we cover what the mainstream media seems to ignore.
UPDATE: Reuters has added coverage as well:

A U.S. Senator’s likening of Republican strategy on blocked judicial nominees to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany drew condemnation on Wednesday from top Republicans and the Anti-Defamation League.
Sen. Robert Byrd on Tuesday compared Republican threats to change Senate rules to outlaw procedural hurdles that have blocked 10 of President Bush’s judicial candidates to Hitler jamming legislation through the German Reichstag.
“Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side,” the Democrat from West Virginia said. “Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.”
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership, said in a statement, “Senator Byrd’s inappropriate remarks comparing his Republican colleagues with Nazis are inexcusable.”

UPDATE II: The New York Times carries an earlier AP report in its Thursday edition, which omitted the Anti-Defamation League condemnation of Byrd:

A Jewish Republican group accused Senator Robert C. Byrd on Wednesday of making an “inappropriate and reprehensible” reference to Hitler in criticizing a Senate Republican plan to block Democratic filibusters:

A Jewish Republican group accused Senator Robert C. Byrd on Wednesday of making an “inappropriate and reprehensible” reference to Hitler in criticizing a Senate Republican plan to block Democratic filibusters.

No mention is made of any other independent calls for apologies and retractions, such as Abraham Foxman’s statement earlier today.

Jewish Groups Denounce Byrd’s Nazi Remarks

Two Jewish groups have denounced Senator Robert Byrd for his equating Hitler and the GOP and have demanded an apology and a retraction, the AP reports today, in a development that may signal a crack in the media disinterest that has marked Byrd’s antics up to now. The first group to criticize Byrd was the the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group that Democrats could dismiss as partisan. However, the second group, the Anti-Defamation League, will not so easily be disregarded by Byrd’s colleagues:

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Wednesday that Byrd’s remarks showed “a profound lack of understanding as to who Hitler was” and that the senator should apologize to the American people.
“It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party’s tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party,” Foxman said.

The leader of the Republican Jewish Coalition called on his Democratic counterpart, Ira Foreman, to condemn the minimization of Hitler’s atrocities to a simple political dispute. Ira Foreman has no comment at this time. Perhaps when Harry Reid gives him access to his manhood, he’ll think of something to say about how a former Klan member just reduced American politics to the level of genocide, hijacking the deaths of millions of Jews just to score a cheap political shot.
Now that the ADL has made demands for apologies and retractions, maybe we’ll also see editors discover their own guts and start reporting this old fraud the way he should be exposed. We’ll know more tomorrow morning.
UPDATE: Check out what the Democrats have decided to complain about instead:

Nevada Democrats are decrying remarks by U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons condemning “tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals” for their opposition to the war in Iraq.
Gibbons, a possible Republican contender for governor in 2006, made the remarks at a Lincoln Day dinner Friday in Elko, according to the Elko Daily Free Press. …
Sean Sinclair, a political adviser to Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, also an early entry into the governor’s race, called Gibbons’ remarks “disappointing.”
“He is so far to the right of where this state is and where most of the country is,” Sinclair said. “It is these kind of bombastic statements that stopped him from being in leadership positions in Congress. Folks haven’t been able to trust what he is going to say next.”

Not that Gibbons’ remarks shouldn’t get criticized (if they’re inaccurate), but it’s interesting that calling someone a “hippie” gets one disqualified for leadership in Congress, but having an ex-Klansman calling his opposition Nazis doesn’t. That’s Howard Dean’s Party of Hate for you.

Ukrainians Arrest Man Carrying Uranium At Airport

Reuters reports that Ukrainian security personnel detained a man at Kiev’s airport carrying 1.28 pounds of uranium-238 in his car:

Ukraine’s SBU security service arrested a man at Kiev’s airport who had a case containing radioactive uranium-238 in his car, the Emergencies Ministry said Tuesday.
It said the man was detained at Boryspil airport, Ukraine’s main international gateway, with 582 grams of uranium. It did not say when the arrest took place or whether he had been attempting to leave the country. …
Depleted uranium, where uranium-238 is normally found, can theoretically be used to make nuclear “dirty bombs,” but it is often used in gun ammunition and armor because of its high density.

Ukraine still has a heavy reliance on nuclear power, even after the Chernobyl disaster, and depleted uranium doesn’t necessarily make good material even for dirty bombs. Still, one has to wonder what the man intended to do with that amount of uranium and why he thought he could just bring it to the airport. On the other hand, the Ukrainian security services appear to be on the ball, which gives some confidence that they can control the material they use in their commercial power production. Since they rely so heavily on Russian oil — one of the reasons that Putin could pressure the Kuchma government in the past — pushing them off of nuclear energy won’t be possible in the near term. That security will have to stay focused to prevent any other attempts to smuggle even the smallest amounts of radioactive material outside Ukraine.

British Airways Passenger Describes Flight

Yesterday, I wrote about the decision by British Airways to continue a flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow despite blowing an engine at takeoff from LAX. The flight almost ran out of fuel due to the lower altitude forced on it by the engine loss and had to make an emergency landing at Manchester. It turns out that BA forced the pilots to continue despite several attempts by American air controllers to get them to land simply to avoid cash penalties for flight delays which kick in at the five-hour mark.
One of the passengers on that flight just happened to be my cousin, Mike Reger, who tipped me to the Times of London article on the flight. Mike followed up with a description of the flight:

As a 50 year old seasoned traveler all seemed fine on this excursion at first …
We lifted off from LAX and all seemed normal but then the plane shook violently and passengers on the left side of the plane started saying, “There are flames coming out of that engine!!!” Seemed to abate and then came back — but worse. Cabin staff was active in the cabin and, after a bit, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that we had a problem [Editorial note: Duh!] and we were going to circle LAX while we figured out what to do. [Editorial note (2): I’m thinking to myself, “I KNOW what to do, pal …”]
After some minutes, the pilot came back on the intercom and told us that we were going to proceed to Heathrow on three engines, the 747 was a safe plane, blah, blah, blah. [Editorial note (3): Thinking to myself, hey, this is America — and a democracy: shouldn’t we get a vote on this? But nooooooooo.]
Eastward ho!
Sometime about when we were over Ireland, the pilot comes back on the intercom and say, “I’m afraid we have more bad news. Coming over on three engines has left us without sufficient fuel to make it to Heathrow. We need to land in Manchester.” So we do and there are emergency vehicles to greet us, etc.
Now, I still need to get to Cambridge … have to wait for another flight to take us to Heathrow. The flight will land at Heathrow at 7:00PM. Instead, we’re still on the tarmac in Manchester at 7:30PM waiting for more passengers to get on the flight.
We finally land at Heathrow around 8:30PM — more than 5 hours after our scheduled arrival time of 2:55PM. I (finally) get a taxi and make it to Cambridge.
Since that time, I have contacted British Air customer relations twice — via their we site and have yet to receive so much as a response.

So after risking the lives of the passengers and crew, British Airways passengers still wound up with the five-hour delay that the airline avoided while purportedly making the decisions with their interests in mind. Not only that, but BA’s overwhelming concern for these passengers somehow doesn’t rise to the level needed to respond to their feedback regarding the risking of their lives for a few pieces of silver.
British Airways needs new management. I’d think twice about getting on board any of their flights while the same people who made these decisions still work there.

Milwaukee Election Official Resigns

CQ reader Joe K brings me up to date on a story line that has gone quiet the past couple of weeks. The embattled head of elections for Milwaukee responsible for the fiasco of last year’s presidential balloting has abruptly resigned after spending the last month on sick leave:

Under a blitz of criticism over the city’s handling of the Nov. 2 presidential election, Lisa Artison resigned Tuesday as executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission after four weeks off the job on sick time.
Artison faxed a one-sentence note of resignation to the mayor’s office Tuesday. She could not be reached for comment.
In recent days, speculation grew that Artison would leave the post she held since July, when she faced sharp questions about her qualifications from aldermen at her confirmation hearing.

Her mysterious resignation probably has to do with the independent investigation launched by a combination of the state legislature, the local DA, and the FBI. Artison started taking her assigned sick days shortly after the mayor’s committee on the Election Day fiasco — on which Artison inexplicably got to sit — got superceded by the new independent panel. City officials get 30 days of sick leave and earn more as the year progresses, based on service, and it’s pretty apparent that Artison saw the writing on the wall after she and her patron, Mayor Tom Barrett, lost control of the investigation.
Next item for Milwaukee residents: an explanation of how Barrett chose Artison in the first place. Her selection last summer to this post stirred up controversy as Artison had no experience other than as a Barrett campaign volunteer and being the wife of a local talk-show host. She barely made it past her confirmation with the aldermen, squeaking by on a 9-6 vote. The six opposing her now look like geniuses, and Barrett should be held accountable for handing out important appointments to unqualified people in order to curry favor with local opinion-makers.

Meeting The Proof Threshold

Hugh Hewitt notes that Ed Kilgore, filling in yesterday for Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo, scoffs at the notion that the Cedar Revolution this week in Lebanon has anything to do with the Bush administration:

But it literally never crossed my mind that Bush’s fans would credit him with for this positive event, as though his pro-democracy speeches exercise some sort of rhetorical enchantment.
This is the kind of thinking, of course, that has convinced God knows how many people that Ronald Reagan personally won the Cold War. It’s the old post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) logical fallacy. This is a president and an administration that chronically refuse to accept responsibility for the bad things that have happened on their watch–even things like the insurgency in Iraq that are directly attributable to its policies. Barring any specific evidence (provided, say, by Lebanese pro-democracy leaders)that Bush had anything in particular to do with Syria’s setbacks in Lebanon, I see no particular reason to high-five him for being in office when they happened.

I warned
that this would be the Left’s reaction to being so wrong about the forward strategy of democratization to end Islamofascist terrorism. They simply would refuse to acknowledge reality and claim that the entire effort would just be a huge coincidence. Fortunately, as Hugh notes, Kilgore gave us a standard of proof, one that Kilgore would have known had already been met had he paid any attention to the story at all. David Ignatius’s Washington Post column from February 23rd has this assessment from one of the Lebanese democracy activists:

The leader of this Lebanese intifada [for independence from Syria] is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria’s occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt’s mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus…
“It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explains Jumblatt. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. “The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

So here we have a Muslim in Lebanon, normally inclined towards skepticism towards George Bush, giving Bush the credit for sparking the Cedar Revolution through the liberation of Iraq.
Paging Ed Kilgore … reality on Line 2. Please answer.

Assad: We’ll Be Gone No Later Than A Few Months

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has told Time Magazine in an interview that the Syrian presence will be gone in “a few months,” the AP reports:

“It (withdrawal) should be very soon and maybe in the next few months. Not after that. I can’t give you a technical answer. The point is the next few months,” he told Time magazine.

Joe Klein has the story for Time, and the blurb on their site has plenty of weasel room, but the commitment is explicit:

TIME: Could you give me a timetable?
ASSAD: It’s a technical issue, not political. I could not say we could do it in two months because I have not had the meeting with the army people. They may say it will take six months. You need to prepare when you bring your army back to your country. You need to prepare where you will put the troops.

Assad still claims to need the Lebanese buffer zone against Israeli invasion, but that excuse wore thin over a decade ago when his father signed the Taif accord to completely withdraw, back in 1989. The only thing that’s changed has been the American will to enforce international demands for accountability, which has allowed the Lebanese the opening to demonstrate so effectively in the streets of Beirut for Syria’s ouster.
Assad knows that Syria is through in Lebanon. He may drag it out to June or July, but he’s finished there, and he knows it. The Lebanese may not allow them to wait to the end of March to get out, “technical” issues or not. Those demonstrators won’t stop until Syria leaves, and Assad knows the US won’t let up either.

Maybe His Book Isn’t Selling Well Enough

Turkmenistan’s strange dictator Niyazov has ordered the closing of all hospitals and libraries throughout his country, the BBC reports, except for those in the capitol, Ashgabat. This order is only the latest in a string of increasingly weird actions by the self-styled Father of All Turkmens as he continues his main policy of self-aggrandizement at the expense of his oppressed subjects:

Reports from Turkmenistan say President Niyazov has ordered the closure of all the hospitals in the country except those in the capital, Ashgabat.
The order, announced by a government spokesman, is part of the president’s radical health care policies. Thousands of medical workers have already been sacked under the plan. …
President Niyazov apparently took the decision to close the hospitals at a meeting with local officials on Monday. “Why do we need such hospitals?” he said. “If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat.”

After building numerous statues and monuments to himself around Turkmenistan and sinking a good portion of his country’s assets into a marble-and-gold mosque in Asgabat, Niyazov has apparently run out of money for the luxuries, such as a medical industry. Perhaps this reflects a failure of his Eurocorporate toadies to sell his book in sufficient numbers to the Western masses, or maybe Niyazov believes that bringing sick people to Ashgabat to gaze upon his shrines to himself will miraculously cure them. We can now expect a health-care crisis to arise from untreated sick Turkmen in the outskirts of the country, a situation that will spread to nearby Afghanistan and Uzbekistan as people flee for medical care, if not Iran, which probably has better border patrols.
If ever a man needed a purple finger these days, it would be a Turkmen. I suspect they’d know exactly what to do with that finger, given half a chance, too.

A Healthy Dose Of Crow At The Paper Of Record

The New York Times editorial board must have experienced considerable pain when they opined today on the momentum building throughout Southwest Asia for democratization. After all, after deriding the Bush administration for two years over its “neocon” strategies designed to do exactly what we now see, the board had to publish this:

Still, this has so far been a year of heartening surprises – each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power.

It misses the point entirely, however, on Lebanon and elsewhere. It talks about developments there and in Egypt as if they were completely disconnected to events in Iraq, instead of the logical flow of events coming from the realization by the dictators in the region that (a) Bush got re-elected and will have four more years to command the armies that have split Southwest Asia, and (b) he means what he says instead of blowing hot air. The NYT wants Bush to continue pressuring Syria for a withdrawal; do they think for a moment that Bashar Assad would even consider it without having 150,000 increasingly available American troops on his eastern border? Do the editors think that Assad’s intelligence and military would have stood for a Cedar Revolution two years ago, or even today without that massive military threat on their border?
Ditto Egypt. The Times expresses some doubt about Hosni Mubarak’s sincerity in offering multiparty elections for the first time, and rightly calls for the release of Mubarak’s main opposition figure from prison. They entirely miss the point that without the demonstration of American will in the region, missing since 1991 and only half-baked even then, Mubarak would have been content to die in office and pass the dictatorship on to the next flunky.
The last passive-voice paragraph says volumes to those that recall the NYT’s stand on Central America, especially Nicaragua, during the Reagan administration:

Over the past two decades, as democracies replaced police states across Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, and a new economic dynamism lifted hundreds of millions of eastern and southern Asia out of poverty and into the middle class, the Middle East stagnated in a perverse time warp that reduced its brightest people to hopelessness or barely contained rage. The wonder is less that a new political restlessness is finally visible, but that it took so long to break through the ice.

It’s hard to buy cluelessness by the barrel, but the NYT editorial board manages to do it. Democracies didn’t just replace dictatorships in Central America — US intervention had a lot to do with it, intervention that the Left (again) despised. We supported the Contras while the limousine liberals protested. We forced the Sandanistas to the voting booth and the Salvadorans to do the same while our actions were widely derided by such political luminaries as John Kerry and Ed Asner — and watched as both countries used those elections to transform themselves into self-sustaining democracies. The Gray Lady opposed those efforts then as well.
The wonder is not that it took so long to break the ice in the Middle East. The wonder is that after twenty years, the New York Times still refuses to learn from history, and truly, even to acknowledge it.

Has Musharraf Prepared For Democratization?

Agence France-Presse reports this morning that Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf has created a website to explore his “softer side” — a professionally-produced site that combines a bit of tourist-baiting with an undeniable sense of a serious campaign effort:

His favourite food is a spicy lentil dish, the best book he read recently was on Richard Nixon and he was nearly court martialed in 1965. Welcome to the world of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, via the Internet.
Pakistani officials say a slick new website devoted to the general, which mixes moments of unusual frankness with a glowing, hagiographical tone, puts the country’s people a mere mouse-click away from the “man behind the leader”.
But according to analysts, the aim is not so much to reveal the truth about Musharraf as to project a softer image of both the president and his country, after years of foreign media coverage focused on Al-Qaeda, nuclear weapons and his own unelected status since coming to power in a bloodless 1999 coup.

AFP probably has the target audience correct; the site is entirely in English, which ordinary Pakistanis probably wouldn’t understand, although the intellectual class certainly would. However, the effort is what interests me. How many dictators feel the need to explain themselves on the Internet, especially to outsiders instead of their own people? Musharraf includes snippets of his thoughts on a variety of topics, little more than sound bites for future campaigns, as well as longer policy statements and press releases. He also provides a section called Thoughts and Philosophy that includes topics like Chivalry and Character, the latter of which might jar the average Muslim visitor:

As Quaid said: “We Muslims have got everything – brains, intelligence capacity and courage – virtues that nations must possess. But two things are lacking and I want you to concentrate your attention on these… We have lost the fullness of our noble character. And what is character – highest sense of integrity conviction incorruptibility, readiness at any time to efface oneself for the collective good of the nation.” Today I ask you to put that national character at the service of your state. Lets prove to ourselves that that noble character is built upon and not lost.

Think of that as the Pakistani equivalent to “Ask not what your country can do for you,” a call to service for Muslims to replace the call for jihad coming from the madrassas. Read through as much of Musharraf 2005 as you can; it makes for fascinating web-surfing. Obviously Musharraf has learned to respect the power of the American “street”, especially on the Internet and I suspect the blogosphere. He wants to project a statesmanlike image to moderate calls for his ouster, especially after seeing how a laserlike American focus prompts our politicians to demand action.
Musharraf sees the wave coming from far off, and he’s building surfboards instead of sandbags. That’s all right; at least he’s preparing himself for the inevitability, which bodes well for a return to Pakistani democracy.
Of course, the French news agency simply could not resist tossing an inaccurate and wholly superfluous insult at George Bush in the middle of this article:

The general appears even more forthcoming on his own failings in his early army career — in stark contrast to the reluctance of his close ally US President George W. Bush to disclose his own military records during a controversy over his National Guard service.

Does AFP mean the President who requested the release of all his records via executive order and released all that could be found to the press? Could they mean the President who always noted that he transferred to another post to pursue politics? The one who accumulated three times the number of service points required for discharge? Or perhaps AFP has Bush confused with another American candidate who, despite all promises, has yet to sign his Form 180 so we can see his complete military record — you know, the one who met with the enemy while in the reserves and traveling overseas.
What the hell does George Bush’s military records have to do with Pervez Musharraf’s website? Talk about institutional bias!