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11/29/2003 Archived Entry: ""

Cartoons of the day: Tom Toles' Iraqopoly; and, Ann Telnaes' Free Speech Vultures

From the "What a Co-incidence Department"... On Thanksgiving, few people realized that Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with fellow-Democratic Senator Jack Reed (R.I.), ate dinner with American troops at the military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Why? Their visit was trumped by Bush's surprise arrival in Baghdad, which was played by every major news station in what seemed to be an endless loop. (If I had to see his 10-minute stint of dishing out mashed potatoes to the "boys" one more time, I might have been permanently put off that noble vegetable of Irish fame. 10-minutes, BTW, is about the minimum time it takes to make sure good a good film clip will result.) So where was the footage of Hillary on what might be the biggest TV-watching day of the year? Nowhere. Not that I'm complaining mind you, just observing. It wasn't until yesterday that I saw some real coverage of Hillary's trip and an announcement that she is proceeding on to Iraq (where she currently is) -- a trip that now has her following in Bush's footsteps rather than breaking new ground. No PR she secures can possibly compete with the image of Bush stepping out from behind the curtain to deliver a Thanksgiving address in person, with tears in his eyes; it is an image now seared into the consciousness of the American public and they are unlikely to even see Hillary through it. The BBC coverage will probably be typical. It opens with the words, "Hot on the heels of George W Bush, former first lady Hillary Clinton flew into Iraq to meet US troops." The headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune reads, "Day after Bush visit, Hillary Clinton asks new U.N. role." China Daily's headline: " Hillary Clinton arrives in Baghdad hot on heels of Bush." She must be fuming. Meanwhile, the Bush administration carefully and repeatedly claims that the trip was planned in October...which may be true. Arriving on the Thursday before Hillary's weekend visit may not have been a deliberate upstaging. At this point, however, I assume everything I hear from the Bush administration is a lie. It saves time.

I can't rouse sympathy for Hillary...on a number of grounds, not the least of which is that she used the publicity from eating turkey in Afghanistan to call for an increase in the number of troops stationed there. According to the New York Times Hillary declared, "I believe we need more troops...I don't think we have an adequate number of troops to do what needs to be done." Of course she favored international involvement, especially that of NATO and the UN. I wonder what pronouncements will accompany her stint in Iraq? A call for internationalism has already and predictably occurred, along with the constant jabbing at Bush. She declared, "I'm a big believer that we ought to internationalise this, but it will take a big change in our administration's thinking. I don't see that it's forthcoming." She is walking a thin line in all her references to Bush. She is careful not to attack a "Commander-in-Chief" during time of war...a smart political move. Her criticism is generally oblique and always couched in terms of outdoing him...more troops, more internationalism, more compassion for Iraqi and Afghan women. Her praise of Bush is the sort that damns with faintness. When asked for a response to his Thanksgiving visit, Hillary made a vague reference about troop morale always being raised under such circumstances.

Hillary's call for more NATO troops comes at the same time that the EU is moving toward reducing the importance of NATO to Europe's security. The BBC reports, "Britain, France and Germany have reached an informal agreement on a joint defence arrangement for Europe. The three nations are about to present the proposals to their European Union partners, French and British diplomatic sources said. The submission reportedly includes plans to structure defence co-operation and to create a European military headquarters. Correspondents say the United States is likely to baulk at the accord."

In a contribution to the group blog Liberty and Power, Jim Henley writes, "Literary critic Hugh Kenner is dead. That is a travesty. So is a famous computer program Kenner wrote - Kenner being, to the best of my knowledge, the only renowned scholar of modernism who was also a regular columnist for Byte magazine. Travesty is a text-transformation algorithm that makes new strings from old, based on a few simple parameters. The first version I used, which I got from poet Henry Taylor, ran from a DOS command line. Taylor used it to make one poem. Jackson Mac Low made an entire book using it. Naturally, Travesty is now available as a web applet. It works all too well on blog entries." Here is the web applet.

Best to all,

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