TAPPED

KNOW WHEN TO...

KNOW WHEN TO FOLD 'EM. One idea I've seen kicking around the past couple of days is that talk of military strikes against Iran may be part of some kind of clever gamesmanship designed to achieve a diplomatic resolution. I think people need to think harder about that. Airstrikes would, at best, delay Iranian acquisition of nukes. Giving in to the United States would, of course, entail abandoning the quest for them entirely. So the structure of Bush's offer, under this theory, would be "either give up your nukes or else I'll slightly delay the point at which you can get them." That, I think, isn't quite in "offer they can't refuse" territory. Indeed, they'd have no reason whatsoever to accept that offer. It's a pointless threat.

ROBERT SHRUM DISPUTES...

ROBERT SHRUM DISPUTES JOE KLEIN'S ACCOUNT OF KERRY CAMPAIGN. Robert Shrum, the chief strategist for John Kerry's presidential campaign, is disputing some aspects of a forthcoming account by Joe Klein of the 2004 campaign, saying Klein's version is "inaccurate" and "misleading." In his latest Time magazine column, Klein published an excerpt of the book, one which offers a scathing look at the inner dynamics of Kerry's campaign.

In the piece, Klein asserts that Kerry allowed himself "to be smothered by his consultants," and cites as a key example the campaign's handling of the Abu Gharib scandal:

A SQUEAKER IN...

A SQUEAKER IN ITALY. It looks like Romani Prodi's center-left coalition will eke out a very narrow victory against hilarious crook-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi. If so, Italian society may soon prove less divided than it seems. Even the narrowest of margins for Prodi's coalition would allow him to remedy the current situation where some television stations are owned by Berlusconi, and the other television stations are owned by Berlusconi's government. Everyone likes to complain about media bias, but the situation the Italian left's been dealing with is truly off the charts.

--Matthew Yglesias

OVERTHROW ME ONCE,...

OVERTHROW ME ONCE, SHAME ON YOU... Over at The Times, Floyd Norris makes an interesting point on France's surprisingly rapid abandonment of their proposed economic reforms:

One reason for the reluctance of the French and the Italians to stick by what the politicians see as needed changes is the longtime insecurity of governments, in contrast to relatively stable political situations in countries like the United States and Britain.

K STREET GIVETH......

K STREET GIVETH... Two amusing K Street-related notes regarding Tom DeLay's imminent retirement: First, see Jesse Lee for the latest on lobbyists getting a wee bit testy about DeLay converting the re-election campaign contributions they raised for him into funds for his legal expenses. �If I wanted to give to a legal fund, I would�ve done it directly,� Roll Call quotes one lobbyist; says another, "That all this money will go to the legal defense fund, it sickens me."

JUST POSTED ON...

JUST POSTED ON TAP: A MASSACHUSETTS MIRACLE. Robert Kuttner explains how advocates of universal health care should respond to the new legislation out of Massachusetts.

Now onto a different matter: Does anyone else miss those desperate pleas for more subscribers? I certainly do.

--Alec Oveis

MEANWHILE IN CRAZY...

MEANWHILE IN CRAZY LAND. I have no idea what the provenance of the documents Bill Kristol is quoting here is exactly supposed to be, but they definitely don't show what he seems to think they show. What's going on here, plainly, is that Saddam Hussein was making plans for irregular warfare, possibly including terrorism, as contingency plans to be used in response to an American invasion, not that Saddam was plotting unprovoked terrorist attacks on the United States.

--Matthew Yglesias

THE VIRTUES OF...

THE VIRTUES OF OBSTRUCTION. Over e-mail, Midterm Madness contributor Ben Adler has a smart response to my earlier post on Sebastian Mallaby:

SO DO SOMETHING...

SO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. There's little more annoying in modern punditry than on-the-other-handism, that irksome little quirk that causes professional pundits to sully perfectly sound columns by ending their focused critiques with indiscriminate, incoherent sprays of blame. Today's example? Sebastian Mallaby, who concisely dismantles the modern GOP's contempt for governance and then, out of nowhere, ruins it with a meaningless, inaccurate shot at the Democrats.

LIFE DECLINES TO...

LIFE DECLINES TO IMITATE ART. Reading the West Wing piece Mike linked to, I stumbled across this tidbit I'd not known:

On that score, Mr. Sheen was offered an opportunity to see how his character's appeal would play in a real-life campaign. Not long ago, he said, he was approached by Democratic Party representatives from his native state, Ohio, to see if he would be interested in running for the United States Senate after he left the show. Though he would have had little trouble drafting a campaign platform � he is a fierce opponent of nuclear power and the war in Iraq, and a champion of human rights � he turned them down.

THE EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION...

THE EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION RACKET. Direct compensation for top CEO's went up by "only" 16 percent in 2005 after a more robust 41 percent in 2004. By comparison, median wages increased 3.2 percent in 2005 and somewhat less than that in 2004. Obviously, this is due to a dramatic acceleration in CEO productivity, catapulting the value of the top suits to ever-higher multiples of the value of the rest of us. Maybe. Well, actually, definitely not.

HALFWAY HOME. As...

HALFWAY HOME. As I had predicted, Matt Santos won the presidency last night on The West Wing, eking out a surprise win in Nevada. Now the stage is set for the completion of my prediction, the more interesting second part: Santos, in the wake of Leo McGarry�s death, names Arnold Vinick as his national unity vice-president.

TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES....

TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES. We learn in today's Washington Post that the military is running a covert propaganda campaign aimed at exaggerating the importance of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in particular and al Qaeda in general in Iraq. In theory this is supposed to be aimed at Iraqis (which is legal), but in practice it seems to have been partially aimed at Americans (which is illegal), and as we saw with the last covert propaganda story, the distinction is pretty meaningless in the contemporary world.

THE NERD PATROL...

THE NERD PATROL GETS RICH. This isn't necessarily surprising, but it's nice nonetheless. A recent study analyzing government funding for scientific research found higher returns than previously thought, with grateful scientists filing patents and founding start-ups at a surprisingly rapid clip. That's instructive, as the primary driver of this bit of economic growth is the National Institute of Heath, which has seen its funding stagnate during the Bush era, in stark contrast to the 250 percent increase of the Clinton years.

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