November 2, 2007

Time to Fisk - er - Power Line?

Hatched by Dafydd

My favorite blog, Power Line, has spent the last few years firing rockets and mortars at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seemingly blaming her for every State Department initiative they dislike -- and by and large dismissing the possibility that Rice might not be a Col. Kurtz-like rogue agent but actually representing the foreign policy of the president. I have said several times that I think they're theorizing beyond the evidence, which Sherlock Holmes dubbed a cardinal sin.

Honestly, we don't know what Condoleezza Rice thinks about, e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian "roadmap" nonsense, except that clearly it doesn't bother her enough to cause her to resign from the administration. It's possible she's 113% in synch with President George W. Bush's enthusiasm about a Palestinian state living "side by side" with Israel and at peace. But it's likewise possible that she thinks it's doomed to failure... but since that's the foreign policy the president wants, she may believe strongly enough in the unitary executive that she's willing to push hard even for something she opposes.

(Such selfless advocacy is hardly unprecedented, even in Foggy Bottom; Colin Powell pushed very hard to bring our allies along for the Iraq ride, even though he personally abhored the policy.)

My point is this: We won't know what Condi Rice thinks until, like John Alden, she can speak for herself. In 2009 and later, when the Bush administration has run its course, Rice may run for public office (perhaps governor of California when Arnold Schwarzenegger's term expires in 2010). Even if she doesn't, she would be a fool not to write a book and cash in on her (relatively) low-paid years in government service and at Stanford (low-paid compared to what she could have earned in private industry).

At that point, we'll finally learn what she really thinks about this; I can't imagine a campaign or memoir that didn't address what has occupied much of the time she has been at State and before that as National Security Advisor. But until then... well, what we have is a lot of rumor and inuendo by people who have a class interest in shiving her, such as the folks at Haaretz and self-proclaimed Zionists such as Boker tov, Boulder! (the clock on the blog shows Jerusalem time, though the blog presumably emanates from Colorado).

Sadly, the lads at Power Line often seize hold of such iffy, flakey "evidence" as more ammunition for their artillery barrage -- as today:

The latest round of diplomatic buffoonery includes a recurrence of Seceretary Rice's characterization of the Palestinian cause as a civil rights issue in the image of the one she grew up with in Birmingham, Alabama. As Joel Fishman recently reported:

Last week in Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, articulated some of her personal views which ultimately found their way into the press. For Dr. Rice the struggle of the Palestinians is analogous to that of the Afro-Americans for civil rights and she identifies with the Palestinians. She recalled what it meant to travel in segregated buses as a little girl in Alabama. She also compared the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Reverend Martin Luther King, because, in her mind, both were committed to peace. According to reporter Aluf Benn, Rice views Abbas as committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and, like Martin Luther King, opposed to terror and violence (Haaretz, October 16, 2007). Independently, David Bedein reported Rice's statements in The Bulletin (Philadelphia, October 17, 2007).

At the end of the post, Scott Johnson notes finally received a link to the Haaretz piece itself from a reader, and he links to it. Let's turn to the original to see what evidence "respected left-wing Israeli reporter" Aluf Benn actually cites:

When Condoleezza Rice talks about the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel, she sees in her mind's eye the struggle of African Americans for equal rights, which culminated in the period of her Alabama childhood.

Rice is very aware of political sensitivity, and avoids making such comparisons in public speeches and interviews, where she keeps to the official list of talking points. But in private, she talks about the

[Sic; the paragraph actually ends hanging with this sentence fragment]....

Now, Rice is comparing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayad, to Martin Luther King. Abbas is committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence, and like Abbas he is opposed to terror and violence. Just as Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy and former British prime minister, compares the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tothe conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, so does Rice recall the struggle for civil rights in the United States when she speaks about the Palestinian boy who needs new hope instead of aspiring to commit a suicide attack. Rice's current visit to the Middle East is one of the most important in her term as secretary of state, perhaps the most important.

Please pardon my bluntness, but what the hell kind of evidence is this? Benn simply asserts, without even hinting at his sources, that Rice equates Abbas with Martin Luther King and the Palestinian conflict with "the struggle for civil rights in the United States" -- and Scott accepts the assertion uncritically. Why? I believe because it fits his preconceived storyline on Condoleezza Rice.

I cannot help but suspect that if Aluf Benn published a piece where he asserted, equally unsourced, that Rice had forcefully demanded that the Palestinians live up to their previous agreements before she would offer a new one, Scott Johnson would be very skeptical and demand to see something more substantive; he is convinced of the opposite. Thus doth conviction make convicts of us all.

At least one anti-Rice blogger, Boker tov, Boulder!, who is favorably linked by the Power Line post, thought the sourcing was thin enough that he (or she) e-mailed Benn to inquire what he actually had. BtB appears to find the following response very reassuring:

UPDATE: I wrote to Aluf Benn and asked for any substantiation of his comments on Secretary Rice. He very kindly responded immediately:

I cannot name my sources, and as I have written, Rice did not speak in public about these matters. But I rely on firm ground.

Well! Who could argue with that? "Firm ground," indeed.

But come now; if a leftist reporter at, say, the New Republic offered his reliance on firm ground as sole authority for the flat claim that Bush told friends "in private" that he wanted to launch a ground invasion of Pakistan -- would Power Line accept it? Would any of us?

Scott uses a rhetorical trick to try to further discredit the Secretary of State:

These themes have become a motif in Secretary Rice's discussion of Palestinian statehood. She articulated them most egregiously last year in an astonishing speech before an American-Palestinian group. In that speech Rice likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement. Rice said:

I know that sometimes a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel must seem like a very distant dream. But I know too, as a student of international history, that there are so many things that once seemed impossible that, after they happened, simply seemed inevitable. I've read over the last summer the biographies of America's Founding Fathers. By all rights, America, the United States of America, should never have come into being. We should never have survived our civil war. I should never have grown up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama to become the Secretary of State of the United States of America.

But what "themes" does Scott mean? The theme in the previous attack was that Rice thinks Mahmoud Abbas is like Martin Luther King; but this theme is that she still has hope that rationality can prevail and a peaceful Palestinian state could eventually emerge.

First, I don't know about you guys, but those seem awfully different "themes" to me. But second, what of Scott's characterization that the passage "likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement"? There is no question she compares them; but "compare" needn't mean "equate." I can compare elections in Iran to elections in the United States without likening them or saying they're the same.

In the sense that, if such a peaceful Palestinian state comes into being, it might be seen as something that "seemed impossible" right up until it "seemed inevitable," such a circumstance would be very much like the United States; but that's a far cry from saying Yassir Arafat was like George Washington or that Mahmoud Abbas is like Martin Luther King. I can say that many people thought it would have been impossible for the United States to lose a war (or a peace) to primitive North Vietnam; but by the time it happened, it sure seemed inevitable to me. Yet surely this doesn't mean I equate Ho Chi Minh to George Washington or even Martin Luther King, jr.

Like Anne Frank in her last days, Condoleezza Rice still has hope in the future and in people. What is Scott Johnson's hope? Does he not hope that the Palestinians can eventually come to their senses?

What are the alternatives? I see only two: that Israel runs the entire Arab population out of Gaza and the West Bank and annexes them as "Judea and Samaria," or that Hamas eventually expunges Israel. I think the first would so enrage the Arab world -- heck, the entire Moslem world -- that the war on global hirabah would become vastly more dangerous to us.

And of course the last is unthinkable. So honestly, I have great sympathy for Dr. Rice's hope that the Palestinians return to the land of sanity sometime, because it's really the only solution.

And for heavens sake, Rice was speaking "at the American Task Force on Palestine Inaugural Gala." She was talking to an audience of Palestinian-Americans! She called upon them to help in the task of liberating the PA from terrorist violence and the "humiliation" of being just a territory or "authority," not quite a state. What is she supposed to do -- tell that audience that Israel should annex the territories and expel all the Arabs?

So which of Power Line's claims have convincing evidence behind them?

  • That Condoleezza Rice hopes for Palestinians to reject violence and create a peaceful state;
  • That she considers Mahmoud Abbas a "moderate leader" -- which, since moderate is a comparative, means "moderate compared to his rivals in Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (which appears to despise Abbas, despite being part of Fatah, Abbas's party), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda;"
  • And that she wants to persuade Palestinian-Americans to join in the effort to nudge the PA in a more democratic and peaceful direction.

Finally, we have convincing evidence that either somebody, God knows who, told Mr. Benn that Rice in private says Abbas is like Dr. King; or else that Benn himself made it up. We certainly have no evidence whatsoever that she actually did say such a thing... and by now, you'd think we would have, wouldn't you?

That gruel of truth seems a bit thin to make the big buffet breakfast of Condoleezza bashing Power Line serves us.

They're still my favorite blog, of course; I will always aspire to their pinnacle of posting (near) perfection. But decades ago, I became pathologically obsessed with truth; and in this case, I must point out a few "inconvenient truths" about the animus that so many conservatives have against Condoleezza Rice.

Besides, she is a true lady (and a hottie), and I must therefore rise in defense of her honor.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 2, 2007, at the time of 6:11 PM

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The following hissed in response by: hunter

Rice has ticked off the State Dept. FSO's - a lot.
She is no longer going to get anything like reasonable treatment in the press.
But for Conservatives to start implying she is as naive as Carter or Clinton regarding the Pals is just plain wrong.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 2, 2007 9:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

As another devotee of the Powerline boys, I am also disheartened to read the demogogery against Ms. Rice. They seem to have the antithesis of BDS, and, unwilling to assault this aspect of his foreign policy, deem it to be hers.

Bush has never been a doctinaire conservative. He is far more "nuanced" than the BDS crowd will admit. But he has also ascribed to policies that annoy the cons: even-handed treatment of illegals, non-confrontational treatment of political opponents, and some of the Kissinger realpolitik sentiments. She may or may not share those sentiments, but she is faithful to her oath. Policy concerns should be addressed to Pres. Bush, not those charged with carrying them out.

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2007 9:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: FredTownWard

This is one of the relatively few topics upon which a significant number of conservative commentators make me experience something the sane Liberal Democrat (still theoretically possible by the way) experiences every waking moment: acute embarrassment at being associated with such craziness.

Other examples are: fears that W is "OK" with Iranian or NK nukes, fears that W is just looking for the opportunity to cut and run out of Iraq, the Harriet Myers nomination, the Dubai Ports deal, and the (for once) correct fear that W for some strange reason puts a higher priority on rounding up illegal alien wouldbe terrorists than he does on denying illegal alien wouldbe busboys the opportunity to profit by their crime.

Given your quite correct point that the only other options are ethnic cleansing at least the pro-genocide non-Jews or the Holocaust Part Dieux, W and Rice are correct to periodically give the Palestinians yet another opportunity to fail because who knows? They might just surprise us all and make the sane choice...


The above hissed in response by: FredTownWard [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2007 9:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I agree with you here. In fact another blogger {I used to like} Roger Simon went after Rice when the US sold jets to Saudi Arabia. He said her announcement of the sale made her one of them . He even went so far as to say he could not believe there was a time when he considered her someone he could admire and support.

I thought, well come on, I doubt if she made that kind of decision all on her own. And besides the Bush administration was more interested in putting the screws to the Iranians than anything else. And.... the US has been making deals like this with the Saudis for years before Bush or Rice came along. Like it or not.

At any rate it seemed hostile and kind of silly to me.

I remember when Bush refused to even meet with Arafat and the Left went after both him and Rice for that. Not so long ago Rice was confronted by some crazy woman from Code Pink. She is currently dealing with crybabies at the State Department not wanting to live up to their oath to serve in Iraq.

I am kind of starting to feel sorry for her.

As far as a Palestinian state is concerned, I don't think it is so much a matter of wanting to help the Palestinians as it is trying to find a solution to a nearly insoluble problem. If the Palestinians have a state, then they will be responsible for the actions of their leaders. This victimhood status of theirs will lose some of its appeal. Hopefully.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2007 11:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist

Dear Sirs,

These are enormously complex and dangerous times. We who are not on the inside do not see much of the "truth". What we do see are fragments of individual situations. The dynamics of the Palestinian question are tied into the Byzantine politics of all the players in the region. We do not know what is posturing, domestic political maneuvering or statements of intentions. Our only choice is to put our trust in the wisdom of the president. I do.


p.s., I inadvertently saw some things in the communications center in Peshawar Pakistan during the Cuban missile crisis that will probably never become public. It's better that way.

The above hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2007 7:26 PM

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