ISIS and acronym woes

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled former secretary of state George Shultz’s name. This version has been corrected.

The Institute for Science and International Security is having some acronym woes.

The highly regarded, nonpartisan nonprofit outfit, which seeks to stop the spread of nukes to other countries and to terrorists, posted a plea Tuesday on its Web site under the heading “Needless Collateral Damage.” It asked that everyone please stop using its acronym, ISIS, “as a shortening for the name of the jihadist terrorist group named, in transliterated Arabic, the Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Sure, that would be really snappy: The ADAIFAIWAS, or maybe just DIFI. (But then the senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, might be most upset.)

In its post, the good ISIS says that the bad ISIS “announced in June that it was changing its name to the ‘Islamic State,’ ” and suggests that the media use “IS.” (Seriously? Then we get back to what the meaning of “is” is.)

The good ISIS says “the widespread, persistent use of the acronym ISIS to refer to this terrorist organization” causes “considerable confusion” and “reputational harm.” Besides, the good ISIS says, it had the acronym first, having used it since 1993.

That’s of little matter, since duel­ing initialisms are a constant problem in this alphabet-soup-crazed town. There’s AFP, which is the French wire service and the Koch operation; ABA, which includes lawyers, bankers and a now-defunct basketball league; GMA, a morning TV show and the grocers association; and SEC, a financial watchdog and a college sports conference.

Best bet would be if someone destroyed the bad ISIS (your move, President Obama). That way, we eliminate this problem — and a host of other, deadlier ones.

Into the secretarial pool

Loop fans may have thought that the State Department already was the Diplomacy Center, but apparently no — that title is reserved for a long-delayed museum that will sit just outside the hulking Foggy Bottom headquarters and will, unlike the main building, be open to tourists.

Our colleague Anne Gearan attended its groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday and wrote this dispatch for the Loop:

Hillary Clinton, making her first return to the State Department since stepping down as secretary of state early last year, was among five of the seven living former secretaries of state gathered to break ground for a new Diplomacy Center.

The museum, described by State as “an extraordinary glass jewel box that will be pleasing to the eye by day and softly illuminated through the evening,” is still a work in progress. The $50 million or more in private sector donations to build it aren’t all in yet, and the speakers at Wednesday’s fete avoided being too precise about when the center might open.

While Clinton’s every move is always a news event these days (maybe she’ll drop another 2016 hint!), it was 91-year-old Henry Kissinger who pretty much stole the show as he hoisted his shovel into the dirt and hammed it up for the crowd.

“We want people who come to this center to understand what diplomacy is all about,” Clinton said in her remarks, noting how the art form has evolved “from Benjamin Franklin to John Kerry and beyond.”

Madeleine Albright, who hatched the idea for the center in 1999, beamed. Colin Powell and James Baker were also on hand to help shovel.

“Humbling company,” Kerry tweeted as the program began.

“This day has been a long time in the making,” Albright said, a delicate reference to the project’s early years, when the Bush administration largely ignored it.

After the museum plan languished during the Bush years, Albright pressed Clinton to jump-start the project, and Clinton assigned staff to spearhead the fundraising.

Former secretaries George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice did not attend on Wednesday. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they were invited but could not make the event.

The year of the flower child

On a hallowed day in history, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wanted us all to pause to remember the (losing) 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, the late senator from Arizona.

It was half a century ago, on Sept. 3, 1964, when the oft-
considered godfather of the modern conservative movement launched his general-election campaign for president from the steps of a courthouse in Arizona. (Yes, 50 years ago, you would begin a general-election campaign two months before Election Day, though the lobbying for the nomination began months earlier.)

McCain, who shares his predecessor’s record of a bruising presidential loss, believes the kickoff of Goldwater’s campaign was worth commemorating.

In an official statement, McCain noted that, in tribute to Goldwater, he has “ended all of my campaigns on those same courthouse steps, including my campaign for president in 2008.” There was a public celebration planned at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott in Goldwater’s honor because, despite his landslide loss, he’s revered by Republicans as a conservative icon.

Perhaps more remarkable than the this-day-in-history lesson is that there was a time in American politics when presidential general-election campaigns formally began after Labor Day. Goldwater received the Republican nomination for president in July, took August off and then started his campaign on Sept. 3.

Notably, it was less than a week later on Sept. 7, when President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign aired the famous “Daisy” campaign attack ad that juxtaposed an adorable little girl picking flowers with images of a mushroom cloud signaling the threat of nuclear war. Considered the most negative ad to date, it set the tone for a new kind of political advertising.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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