Jewish World Review March 25, 2002/ 12 Nisan 5762


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One of the Left's most annoying fruitcakes | One of the left's most annoying fruitcakes is Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the alarmist American Prospect and a syndicated columnist. In a piece that the Boston Globe printed on March 13, Kuttner was at his wackiest, letting readers know that he hasn't "been this frightened since, say, October 1962." The peg to the quasi-socialist's fear was the leaked "Nuclear Posture Review," in which the Pentagon has produced a study of America's nuclear options. Although such a document is routine, it led the inexplicably pro-Arab New York Times to headline a March 12 editorial damning the administration "America as Nuclear Rogue."

Kuttner's column is full of holes. He says, "[T]he experts reassured us that Sept. 11 was a 'one-off'-a fluke. It had been years in the planning. They had thrown at us everything they had. Our security was asleep at the switch. But now we were wide awake. Nobody would ever successfully turn a jetliner into a human bomb again."

The Boston-based wonk obviously tunes out news he doesn't want to hear, since President Bush has repeatedly said since the attacks that the war would be long and difficult, and the U.S. could likely be struck again. What does Kuttner think all of John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge's alerts have been about?

He continues: "Now, however, nearly everything the administration does only intensifies one's fears. There is no coherent plan for the next phase of the ubiquitous war on terrorism, only scattershot policies that will make the world an even more dangerous place. Whether it is an ill-specified axis of evil [Hey Rob, Bush identified three discrete countries; maybe you can look up "specific" in a dictionary], or a decision to make tactical nuclear war thinkable, or a domestic 'shadow government,' or deliberately leaked plans to attack Iraq, George W. Bush in his own way is as frightening as Al Qaeda."

Presumably, the pushing-60 Kuttner is not completely brain-damaged: like washed-up actor Alec Baldwin he just likes to foment dissent with absurd propaganda. Since it's doubtful the White House or Pentagon consults with this Cambridge scared-of-his-own-shadow "intellectual," how in the world can he claim the government has no "coherent plan" for the ongoing war? What does he think Dick Cheney is doing in the Mideast as he meets with heads of state about the inevitable action against Saddam Hussein?

If, in fact, Ashcroft and Bush had "shredded the Constitution," as many left-wingers claim, men like Kuttner would be bending over for soap in the pokey right now, just as Woodrow Wilson jailed protesters during World War I. It's an underreported story that there's been incessant criticism of the government since Sept. 11-from goofballs who worry more about the fate of Afghans than Americans to the editorial board of The New York Times, which bludgeons Bush on an almost-daily basis. The First Amendment thrives.

And now it's my turn to whack the President and Colin Powell. Maybe it was a head-fake last week when Bush scolded Ariel Sharon in public, providing cover for Cheney's mission abroad, and he probably believes that the increasingly unpopular Sharon may soon give way to Benjamin Netanyahu, but it was distressing nonetheless. I do believe the U.S. is firmly committed to Israel, and is engaging in high-stakes politics right now, but morally it's the wrong position to take. There's a difference between the beleaguered Israelis using their military to defend themselves and Palestinian youths in search of martyrdom by blowing themselves up in cafes and synagogues. It's fine to call for a Palestinian state, but Bush owes it the world not to allow the United States to back any such proposal if it includes Yasir Arafat.


TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS ago Bob Dylan wistfully sang the words "Either I'm too sensitive, or else I'm getting soft," from the Blood on the Tracks tune "If You See Her, Say Hello." That lyric rang through my head last Thursday morning when Mrs. M and I attended Junior's third-grade play at his school. It's a strict, all-male institution: blazers and chinos are required (and I'm pleased that about half the students wear American flags on their lapels); Latin is still offered as a course for upper-class pupils; and every morning the headmaster greets the boys and shakes their hands.

Not surprisingly, the theme of this year's play was "I Am an American," and it was an emotional, if low-key, presentation, starting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a wobbly rendition of "G-d Bless America." Waving U.S. flags and wearing Statue of Liberty hats, the third-graders recited facts about two states; showed pictures of their families on a wide-screen; and then told the audience about their heritage and what, in their opinion, makes this country great.

Fully half mentioned Florida as their favorite vacation spot, which escaped me, but more interesting was the dizzying array of countries either their ancestors or parents came from. After mentioning his Irish background and excitement at visiting baseball stadiums, Junior then said, "The United States is the greatest democracy in the world, and especially important is our First Amendment, which provides freedom of speech."

Okay, so he was influenced a bit by Dad, and for all I know 20 years from now he'll wind up as editor at The Nation, but it was still a tender moment.

But that wasn't a patch on March 11, when our family went up to the roof at 6:50 and waited patiently for the two celestial towers of light that were clicked on five minutes later. It was (and is) a stunning spectacle, a poignant reminder of the carnage that crippled this city six months ago. Each night now, both of our boys eagerly wait for dusk when those twin rays of hope appear once again. It's true for people over the age of 45 that they'll never forget where they were when JFK was shot, but the morning of Sept. 11 is undeniably 100 times more significant.


Ted Koppel? Was he the guitarist for Iron Butterfly?

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith