Joe Conason's Journal

Does George Will bother to check if he's right? Plus: Bush envoy says Iraq war "unwise."

By Salon Staff
Published August 27, 2002 2:04PM (EDT)

Pardon my secrecy
Why would the Bush administration attempt to grant itself the most sweeping executive privilege in presidential history, supposedly to maintain the secrecy of Bill Clinton's pardon deliberations? It can't be an effort to protect Clinton, whose reputation the White House has literally trashed from day one of Bush II. Perhaps the White House counsel wants to ensure that no one ever obtains any pardon documents from the first Bush presidency, when some very strange favors were granted to Armand Hammer as well as a Cuban terrorist and a Pakistani heroin smuggler.

Will's Olympian gutter
Among the most widely respected, widely published and worst columnists in America is George Will. His most recent effort, a sneering attack on the nation's largest teachers union, exemplifies how lazy and deceptive the ABC News pundit can be. On this occasion, he reaches down from his Olympian perch into the gutter of the Washington Times and the Free Congress Foundation for a phony story about how the NEA is soft on terrorism. The essential fraudulence of Will's pompous outrage may be gleaned almost instantly from the Daily Howler, which includes all the other necessary links.

Crash bonus
Business as usual -- meaning management self-dealing -- apparently continues at US Airways. According to Brian O'Neill in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the bankrupt airline is still trying to pay $6 million in "bonuses" to the executives in charge when the company crashed. The employees who agreed to slashed wages and benefits are understandably agog at the audacity of the company's bosses and lawyers, as well as the judge who is countenancing this scam. The president's Air Transportation Stabilization Board should examine any proposed executive bonus payments before approving the billion-dollar loan guarantee these free-enterprise entrepreneurs asked for in June.
[2:53 p.m. PDT, Aug. 27, 2002]

Zinni: Iraq war "unwise"
The Bush administration's special Mideast envoy, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, denounced the drive to war in Iraq last Saturday during an appearance in Florida. He did so with certainty and a touch of sardonic wit. Somehow, this front-page story hasn't yet penetrated the consciousness of the nation's great newspaper editors. But Zinni's speech at the Economic Club in Tallahassee (just down the street from Jeb's office) powerfully reaffirms the quiet dissent of Colin Powell, who appointed him. His tough remarks about the administration he is currently serving may also suggest that the Mideast envoy feels deep frustration over White House mishandling of Israeli-Palestinian issues. In short, he may be ready to quit.

Zinni made a direct reference to the secretary of state, along with retired generals Schwarzkopf and Scowcroft, and derided the armchair hawks who are promoting "pre-emptive" military action: "It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way, and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way." If I were Dick Cheney or Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz, I might have to take that personally.

Zinni isn't just any general, of course. In addition to his Marine résumé, he's also the former chief of the Army's Central Command, with responsibility for the Mideast region. The quotes in the Tampa Trib reflect a remarkably sensible outlook, but one that is wholly at odds with the president's "axis of evil" mind-set. According to the Trib reporter, he indicated that "more important than Iraq right now are 'the opportunities that exist for the United States to encourage a peaceful transition in Iran where young people are increasingly challenging the power of the Islamic theocracy.'"
[7:09 a.m. PDT, Aug. 27, 2002]

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