Abbottabad’s Abbott not exactly Kipling


A September 14, 2001 file photo shows U.S. President George W. Bush talks to retired firefighter Bob Beckwith (R) from Ladder 117 at the scene of the World Trade Center disaster in New York. (WIN MCNAMEE/REUTERS)
Al Kamen
Columnist May 5, 2011

The pollsters are predicting that the nine-point “Osama Bounce” for President Obama will fade in a few weeks. So maybe the annoying partisan debate about who gets credit for killing the terrorist will also go away.

Republicans, quick to claim that torture works — though of course this country doesn’t torture, but if it did, that would have been the key to getting clues to Osama bin Laden’s hideout — said Obama just followed the map that Bush II handed him. Democrats countered by reviving the failure to get bin Laden in Tora Bora.

Some folks tried to give Bill Clinton credit as well, since he launched that missile attack against bin Laden in 1998 and the early CIA operation tracking him. Others note that John F. Kennedy, in 1962, set up the SEAL teams that carried out the operation. And FDR set up the precursor to the CIA.

We’re pretty sure Millard Fillmore had a hand in all this, too, but still checking that out.

Former Bush national security adviser and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, coming off a fine performance last week on the hit show “30 Rock,” where she played Alec Baldwin’s ex-girlfriend, had an interesting take on the matter.

She was interviewed Tuesday on TV’s most entertaining — though maybe unintentionally so — morning talk show, “Fox and Friends.”

Host Brian Kilmeade , the dark-haired guy, veering way off message, said Obama “did a great job on his speech Sunday night — talked about coming together like we did on 9/11, he wants to see it happen again. Do you think a nice gesture would be to invite President Bush out on Thursday when he comes down to Ground Zero to greet the families?”

(Obama did invite Bush to join him, but the 43rd president declined to participate. A Bush spokesman said the former president “appreciated the invite but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight.” The New York Daily News reported that Bush didn’t go in part because he felt “his team is getting short shrift” in terms of credit from Obama.)

Rice deflected Kilmeade’s question and then said: “But President Bush had at Ground Zero probably the most important moment maybe in American history. It was when this wounded nation watched their commander in chief stand on that rubble and say that they will hear us, we are going to avenge this.”

Bush, Rice said, set up the operation that, over the years, captured or killed many terrorist “field generals” and “is improving now the prospects for an Afghanistan that might actually be stable.”

“And so,” she said, “slowly but surely, this is all coming into place and President Bush began that with that call to the nation — that clarion call to the nation at Ground Zero.”

The “most important moment maybe in American history?” It was a dramatic and moving call to action, pretty much perfect, but a more “important moment” than, say, Washington crossing the Delaware? Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox? Lincoln’s assassination? Pearl Harbor? D-Day? Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”? Bush I’s “Read my lips, no new taxes”? “Ask not what your country can do for you”? The pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock?

Seriously.

’Bad indeed

Abbottabad, the now-famous city where Navy SEALs dispatched Osama bin Laden, is clearly oddly named. While it’s usually pronounced as if it were named Abadabad, with the accent on the second syllable, it probably should be pronounced with the accent on the first, since it is named after British Gen. James Abbott, who served in colonial India in the mid-19th century. It’s a combination of his name and the Pakistani word “abad,” which, according to Wikipedia, means “a place of living.”

Abbott was so enchanted by the beauty of the place that he wrote a poem about it just as he was leaving for England. There is apparently a plaque commemorating the poem in a city park. Britain’s Guardian newspaper, somewhat charitably, called it “one of the worst poems ever written.”

Here are the last two couplets:

Perhaps your winds sound will never reach my ear

My gift for you is a few sad tears

I bid you farewell with a heavy heart

Never from my mind will your memories thwart

“Thwart”? Truly ghastly.

Sour grapes?

The 12th annual Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting and Auction next week, which has raised more than $9 million for the American Heart Association in its first 11 years, is a four-day event sponsored by major corporations. It features lots of wine, and mingling with top executives and lobbyists and “congressional honorees” and other lawmakers. The usual Washington gala thing.

This year the “leadership award” will be given to former vice president Dick Cheney, no stranger to matters concerning the heart.

One of the major highlights comes Thursday night, when contributors have attended private dinners at residences of ambassadors from major wine-producing countries, such as Argentina, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and France.

But the French, we hear, pulled out because of a “scheduling conflict.” Since the event occurs annually on pretty much the same days, this led to speculation that maybe the French were less than thrilled that a major corporate sponsor this year was Boeing, which, after a bitter decade-long battle, defeated EADS, the French-German aerospace conglomerate, to build the air refueling tanker.

But an embassy spokesman e-mailed that Ambassador Francois Delattre did indeed have “a longstanding commitment to be in New York . . . for a ceremony honoring” prominent Rabbi [Arthur] Schneier.”

In any event, the organizers have picked the U.S. Institute for Peace as a substitute venue.

Miers’s tough assignment

Former Bush II White House counsel and, briefly, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers always flew well under the radar. So, other than a brief mention in the Legal Times blog in 2008, another last July in Texas Monthly and Thursday on Gawker, little notice has been given to her work as a registered lobbyist for Pakistan under a $900,000-a-year contract her law firm has with the country of Osama bin Laden’s most recent residence.

She’s really got her work cut out for her now.

Follow In the Loop on Twitter: @AlKamenWP.

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