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The Democrats, Keeping a Civil Tongue

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By Al Kamen
Monday, June 12, 2006

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is promising that things are going to change big time if the Democrats capture control of the House in November.

Former majority leader Tom DeLay 's resignation, she wrote last week in a piece in The Hill newspaper, "brings to an end what the press has referred to as a 'criminal enterprise' run out of the former majority leader's office."

"Yet the widespread Republican culture of corruption goes deeper than one man," she continued, and DeLay's departure doesn't get rid of that "broader corruption," which is what Republicans are all about.

"The corruption extends to legislation written by lobbyists" that favors business at the expense of regular folks. So DeLay, Pelosi wrote, "may be leaving office, but he leaves behind the cost of corruption."

That's Republican corruption. Corrupt, criminal-enterprise Republicans. But "Democrats are proposing change," she added, "a new direction for all Americans." The House Democrats have a new set of principles for a Congress "that sets standards for civility and integrity."

Civility?

Mission Accomplished?

The doors may be closing shortly on the nine-year-old Project for a New American Century, the neoconservative think tank headed by William Kristol , former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and now editor of the Weekly Standard, which is must reading for neocon cogitators and agitators.

The PNAC was short on staff -- having perhaps a half-dozen employees -- but very long on heavy hitters. The founders included Richard B. Cheney , Donald H. Rumsfeld , Paul D. Wolfowitz , Jeb Bush , I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby , William J. Bennett, Zalmay Khalilzad and Quayle.

The goal was to continue the Reaganite, muscular approach to projecting American power and "moral clarity" in a post-Cold War world, the group's manifesto said. The targets were liberal drift and conservative isolationism.

PNAC and its supporters dominated the Bush administration's foreign policy apparatus and championed a policy to get rid of Saddam Hussein long before Sept. 11, 2001.

In its famous 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton , PNAC said "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime . . . now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." Clinton was urged to use all diplomatic, political and military means to topple him.

Despite the happy chatter before the Iraq invasion about cheering crowds and bouquets and cakewalks and how the war was going to pay for itself, the signatories wrote that "we are fully aware of the dangers of implementing this policy."

There had been debate about PNAC's future, but the feeling, a source said, was of "goal accomplished" and it looks to be heading toward closing. Former executive director Gary J. Schmitt , who had been executive director of President Ronald Reagan 's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, left recently for a post at the American Enterprise Institute. (Not a big move. Actually, only five floors up from PNAC.) Still, seems like a short century.

Hello, I Must Be Going

Historic moments in the Senate . . . Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), last week seeking floor time at 2:50 p.m. to speak on Susan Schwab 's nomination to be U.S. trade representative: "Mr. President, I don't care whether they pay attention or not. I want to get out of this town, so let me give my speech."

Mr. Ambassador Puts on His Thinking Cap

The German magazine Der Spiegel published an interview last week with Zalmay Khalilzad, now U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Question: "Mr. Ambassador, your boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice , has admitted that 'thousands of tactical errors' were made in Iraq. President Bush has said he regrets the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. What do you think has been America's biggest mistake?"

Khalilzad clearly didn't want to play. "In my job," he said, "I do my best to look forward. Historians will have some big questions to address: Was it a good idea to hand over control to the occupying forces after the war ended, instead of placing our bets on an Iraqi government from the very start -- the way we did in Afghanistan? Was it the right thing to do, disbanding the military and driving so many members of the Baath Party out of their positions? Did we wait too long to involve the Sunnis in the political process?"

Hard to choose.


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