Ernie the cat found!

Plus: Is Jesse going to China? David Horowitz defends Christopher Hitchens. And: The war between Judicial Watch and Tom DeLay.

By Anthony York
Published April 10, 2001 4:53PM (EDT)

Since the saga of Ernie the cat has gotten its share of attention from RVB readers, we're happy to provide this update from the Associated Press:

President Bush's former cat, missing for weeks, turned up in the dead of night Wednesday strolling Los Angeles' Avenue of the Stars.

By Wednesday afternoon, the orange and white tabby cat was back with Bush fundraiser Brad Freeman and "doing interviews," first lady Laura Bush's office announced at the White House.

Big Buzz

Imagine if the two big kids on the playground had nuclear weapons. Increasingly, that seems to be the best way to think about the standoff between China and the United States: a childish squabble between two proud nations, which has degenerated into a game of "he did it first." If the fate of the 24 crew members (and the future of the planet) weren't at stake, it would be laughable.

But as Marlon Brando once famously told Larry King, "If the dog hadn't stopped to pee, he might have caught the rabbit." Point being ... well, we don't really know. But if this fight were indeed between two kids in a sandbox, a teacher would grab both of them by the neck and make them apologize, maybe even write their names on the board. Where's an international schoolmarm when you need one?

Enter Jesse Jackson. The famous philanderer and hostage negotiator offered to mediate the China dispute, an offer that was officially refused by the White House Tuesday. But that doesn't mean Jesse isn't going.

"After all, I've done this before," Jackson told CNN. "I know how to do it, and in fact, if I was to get in, I'm convinced we could bring our troops back home and with honor."

That was enough to earn a "huge barf alert" from the Free Republic.

"No Thanks Jesse! However, please stand by in case we have to use you as a hostage swap! Don't call us, we will call you," writes one.

The thread also contains an extensive discourse on the virtues of Jackson or Bill Clinton trying to mediate the dispute, and even Ross Perot, who has reportedly volunteered to go to China as well. "Well, all we need is for Bozo the Clown to step up to the plate and the quartet is complete!" writes one poster.

But at least one Freeper was all for the Jackson trip. "Sure. Let him go there. And then cancel his passport!"

As for any chance of there being a U.S. apology, this was as close to saying "I'm sorry" as folks in the CNN message boards got.

Dear China,

We're sorry that you don't train your fighter pilots better. As a token of our apology, here's a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000.

We're sorry that you're front-line fighter planes can't outmaneuver a 35 year old prop-driven airliner. Perhaps you'd like to consider purchasing some surplus 1950's era Lockheed Starfighters from Taiwan. (Who just replaced all theirs with shiny new F-16s.)

We're sorry that you believe your territorial waters extend all the way to Australia. For future reference, here's an American 6th grade geography textbook. (Please take note of the Copyright information printed inside the cover.)

We're sorry that you can't seem to see your part of this incident. We know that it may seem easier to blame others than to take responsibility. Consider this while we build several new Aegis destroyers for our friends in the Republic of China (Taiwan).

We're especially sorry for treating you with such respect for the last 20 years. We'll definitely rethink this policy, and will probably go back to treating you like a common untrustworthy street gang very soon.

We're very sorry for ever granting you Most-Favored-Nation trading status. This will be rectified at the soonest possible opportunity.

The United States of America

Similarly, this mock apology was posted at Monday (though it seems to have been taken down). Here's the text, for those of you who missed it:

If you've been keeping up on the news, you know all about the spy plane incident in China. Apparently, China demanded an apology -- nothing more -- and Bush refused! So, now exists this page, apologizing to the entire world for our stupid fucking president. If you wish to apologize in the name of our soulless nation and leader, please fill out the card below.

Mock apologies notwithstanding, the crisis seems to be getting worse. More and more Web sites are referring to the crew as "hostages." And judging from the story in today's Roll Call, the feud just seems to be growing. The Capitol Hill newspaper reports that the Chinese government sent members of Congress "a strongly worded letter" warning the lawmakers not to try to block Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympic Games.

"You are probably aware that it is entirely under the jurisdiction of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to judge whether a city is suitable for the Games," wrote Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Yang Jiechi. "That choice rests with the IOC and IOC alone. No individual or organization has the right to influence the IOC on the matter."

The paper reports there are currently resolutions pending in both houses of Congress "expressing the sense of Congress that the 2008 Olympic Games should not be held in Beijing unless the Government of the People's Republic of China releases all political prisoners, ratifies the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and observes internationally recognized human rights."

Anger Management

Monday, this column provided a link to Media Whores Online, which ran an open letter to Christopher Hitchens on its home page, implying that Hitchens was a traitor to La Causa for appearing at a conservative retreat hosted by Salon contributor David Horowtiz. "If Horowitz is heavily funded by [Richard] Scaife, we would like to know how much of Scaife's money ended up in your pockets," the letter stated.

Horowitz read the link and the letter, and sent us this response:

Anthony, why provide a link to a site for character assassins like Media Whores Online? For your information, Christopher Hitchens did not receive a dime for his appearance at my Weekend (let alone change his perspective one iota -- he attacked the Vietnam War for example and defended the anti-war left).

Richard Scaife is good, decent, American patriot whose only identified sins are 1) supporting the opponents of the Sandinista dictatorship and 2) funding reporters looking into a corrupt President. Whatever one's attitudes towards these positions (Christopher I am sure would dissent from the first and support the second), they do not justify the kind of personal smear campaigns which is all that Media Whores Online is about. You might as well provide links to the Liberty Lobby or Posse Comitatus sites.

I hope you will find a way to convey these sentiments to Salon readers.

Looking again in the RVB mailbag, we find this, from the "Where is the love?" department: It appears that all is not well between Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman and Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. Just get a load of this letter sent to DeLay and later posted on the Judicial Watch Web site.

It has been reported by the Associated Press that you are, on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee, selling meetings with Bush Administration officials for $20,000 donations. If this report is correct (copy attached), your activity is illegal under the following U.S. Code statutory provisions, and we respectfully request that you immediately cease and desist.

18 USC ' 201 (Bribery of Public Officials and Witnesses); and/or 18 USC ' 600 (Promise of Employment or Other Benefit for Political Activity).

Please confirm within 24 hours if the Associated Press report is true. If it is true, and you do not acknowledge having ceased and desisted, Judicial Watch will pursue swift legal action against you and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Sincerely, Judicial Watch Inc.

Larry Klayman
Chairman and General Counsel

An unnamed spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee tells Roll Call the threatening letter was essentially a shakedown motivated by an ongoing squabble between Klayman and DeLay over mailing lists.

"He's grandstanding, he's outrageous, he's a clown," the NRCC official said. "This is very clearly an attempt to extort the NRCC. Judicial Watch owes the NRCC $17,500 in name value for the Judicial Watch lists that Judicial Watch sells to the NRCC ... This is clearly an attempt to say, hey, I'll sue you and maybe I won't have to make good on the $17,500 owed the NRCC."

Roll Call reports that Klayman flatly denies the allegation. "It's a lie. It's from outer space -- we know nothing to that effect," he said.

What say ye, ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

The thread on Free Republic was a busy one, with more than 250 posts as of Monday evening. And it seemed to be a pro-DeLay crowd. Judicial Watch "has totally gone looney tunes," writes one poster on FR.

"This [is] garbage," writes another. "Judicial Watch makes an allegation without producing any evidence. Delay doesn't have to say squat in response to him. Judicial Watch should put up or shut up. Also, Judicial Watch is spread so thin now and has lost focus to the point of being irrelevant."

Klayman was even subjected to the ultimate Freeper insult. "I'm am sure Judicial Watch will be quoting or next."

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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