There's a sense of deja vu about Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak and his crumbling 30-year dictatorship. Mubarak, who has been a staunch American ally, propped up with billions in taxpayer dollars, called a key to U.S. policy in the region and a human rights abuser, and now twisting slowly in the wind, is pledging to hold on - at least through the end of the week.
Reminds us of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi - a staunch American ally, propped up with U.S. support, called a key to U.S. policy in the region (installed by the CIA, after all, as a bulwark against the Soviets) and toppled in 1979 after nearly 38 years in power.
In Southeast Asia we had dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, another staunch ally, human rights violator, key to policy in the region, propped up by billions in taxpayer dollars, ousted in the People Power Revolution after a 20-year reign.
Closer to home there was Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, another ally and anti-communist, a major human rights abuser who ran the Chilean army for some 25 years and was president for 17 years.
Dictators past have taken a couple years or so to overthrow but, as Ken Pollak of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center observed, "the pace of change" has accelerated in recent years. In the past it's been something like a 30-year itch before the people finally begin revolt (Libya's wacky Moammar Gaddafi, on top for more than 40 years, for the moment being the exception). In the Internet age, that may no longer apply.
But, like "True Grit," seems we've seen this show before, even if we don't know the precise ending.
Finally! It's here. The book you've been waiting for - former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's new memoir, "Known and Unknown" (we would have preferred "Stuff Happens"), is on sale next week, and he's taking his show on the road.
The "first stop on his highly anticipated national book tour" will be next Wednesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a center news release tells us. The book "chronicles his long career in public service," from his time in Congress - he was elected 48 years ago - to his work in the Nixon, Ford and Bush II administrations.
"Long career" is a euphemism for very, very long book, and this one weighs in at a hefty 2.6 pounds and 832 exciting pages, all for just $36. The Wednesday launch includes a "conversation" to be "facilitated by presidential historian Michael Beschloss," where Rumsfeld "will discuss previously undisclosed details and insight into the Bush administration." Tickets for that are only $15, and books will be available for purchase (and signing) right there.
The title echoes Rumsfeld's famous observations about "known knowns" and "unknown unknowns" and so on. Unclear whether there will be questions from the audience, but you should have some ready. For example, you might ask what caused the Army chief of staff at the time, Gen. Eric Shinseki - now secretary of veterans affairs - to be so completely wrong when he said the United States would need a few hundred thousand troops in Iraq.
Rumsfeld might also explain how the prediction that the war would pay for itself was pretty much on target, or perhaps how the post-invasion Iraqi turmoil was just like Germany in 1945-47, or how those weapons of mass destruction may yet be found - okay, maybe in Iran, but that's not all that far away and, after all, they are spelled similarly.
Washington memoirs are famous for settling scores, so if you're lucky enough to get a seat, buy the book , go immediately to the index and look for Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice . . .
Not to be missed. Reservations can be made online at www.constitutioncenter.org.
Loop Fans may recall Sen. Jim Inhofe's little problem with the Federal Aviation Administration in October after he landed his twin-engine Cessna 340 on the main runway in Port Isabel, Tex.
The problem was there were these huge X's on the runway showing it was closed and workmen were out there painting and doing general maintenance as Inhofe (R-Okla.) zipped by.
The matter, we're happy to report, seems now to be resolved in what appears to be the aeronautic equivalent of a nolo contendere plea.
Inhofe, 76, told us Tuesday morning that he was confident he did nothing wrong and had been cleared by a controller to land on the runway. But he said he agreed to what he said was "painless" remedial training rather than go through a legal enforcement action. (That might have led to a license suspension.)
The training, done in Tulsa, consisted of four hours of instruction on the ground and three hours of flight instruction by an instructor who, oddly enough, Inhofe had trained many years ago.
The FAA, in a Jan. 4 letter Inhofe sent us, said that it had "concluded that based on your satisfactory completion of the remedial training program, legal enforcement action will not be pursued." Instead, the letter would remain on record for two years, "after which the record of this matter would be expunged. This letter constitutes neither an admission nor an adjudication of a violation."
Inhofe praised the FAA and said "I could not have been treated better" by the agency, though he acknowledged that his being a senator may have had something to do with the treatment he got. (We hear the FAA insists not.)
He said he would announce on the Senate floor Tuesday that he would introduce legislation that would give pilots greater access to controllers' records and provide for an appeal before a license is revoked.