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Obama and Islam

Barack Obama represents "the only hope for the US in the Muslim world," according to Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. Because Obama's father was a Muslim, he "could lead a reconciliation between the Muslim countries and the US." With any of the other candidates as president, Hersh said, "we're facing two or three decades of problems in the Mideast, with 1.2 billion Muslims."

Hersh, who writes for The New Yorker about the Bush Administration in Iraq and Iran, spoke to my history class at UC Irvine on Tuesday. In Obama's 2006 book The Audacity of Hope he wrote that his Kenyan father was "raised a Muslim," but says he was a "confirmed atheist" by the time his parents met. His parents separated when he was two years old and later divorced.

Of course if Obama did win the nomination, one can only imagine what the Republicans would do with the fact that his father was a Muslim. We've already had Mitt Romney smiling next to a campaign sign in South Carolina that said "No to Obama Osama."

Hersh did not hold out much hope for improved relations between the US and the Muslim world. "The only good news I can bring you is that tomorrow morning there will be one less day of the Bush presidency," he told an overflow crowd in a public lecture at UC Irvine. Bush "doesn't care about" his low standing in the polls, and as a result "he's going to keep going until 11:59 a.m. on January 20, 2009."

Even after Bush's term ends, "much of the damage is yet to come," Hersh said. "The problems for the next president may be intractable."

"They say the surge has worked," Hersh said. "But do you think someday we will get an oil deal in Iraq? They'll burn the fields first. We're hated in Iraq."

As for Afghanistan, "we became more of a threat to the people than Taliban," Hersh said. We're "losing the war there," he said, and concluded that "Afghanistan is a doomed society."

Hersh said he had just returned from Syria, where he was working on his next New Yorker piece, on the mysterious bombing carried out by the US and the Israelis. "The Syrians have a much longer-term perspective than we do," he said. "They say 'we've been here for 10,000 years; we're not going away.'"

As for the short term, Hersh said, "Cheney thinks war with Islam is inevitable, so we might as well have it now." Administration plans for bombing Iran call for targeting the Revolutionary Guards. Iran's response, Hersh said, is likely to be "asymmetrical" - instead of striking back directly at the US, they will "hit the oil" in the Gulf. The result will be oil prices of "$200 or $300 a barrel," double or triple the current price.

But will Bush bomb Iran? Hersh's answer: "How the hell should I know?"

Clinton Plays the Gender Card for a Win

Hillary Clinton, who joked about taking the stage wearing "an asbestos pantsuit" Thursday night, won what could turn out to be the critical debate of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

To suggest otherwise would be to underestimate the power, the authority and, yes, the intangibly presidential quality of Clinton's response to a question posed mid-way through the Las Vegas debate by CNN's Campbell Brown.

Brown asked about a speech the New York senator recently gave at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Clinton had told the Wellesley crowd, "[In] so many ways, this all women's college prepared me compete in the all boys' club of presidential politics."

"What did you mean at Wellesley when you referred to the boy's club?" asked Brown.

Clinton paused. She smiled like the Cheshire cat.

"Campbell!" the Democratic frontrunner declared in mock exasperation.

Clinton's point was made. Everyone got it. Of course, there is a boy's club -- in politics and in media -- and that cannot come as news to Campbell Brown.

But the senator, who understood she was finally regaining ground lost after several tough weeks as a frontrunner under assault, was not going to let this magic moment pass quickly.

"It is clear, I think, from women's experiences, that from time to time, there may be some impediments," Clinton continued, taking every advantage of the sort of opening that rarely comes in a live and relatively unscripted political setting.

"[It] has been my goal, over the course of my lifetime, to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us but has particularly been significant to me as a woman," said Clinton, who suggested that her campaign seeks to break through "the highest, hardest glass ceiling."

Clinton had rehearsed this answer. That was beyond debate.

But it worked. She was pulling heartstrings when she spoke of parents driving daughters hundreds of miles to meet the candidate who could be the first woman president and of elderly women who were born when only men had the right to vote tell her that, "I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House."

Clinton was playing the gender card -- even if she denied doing so.

"I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas, I'm just trying to play the winning card," the candidate chirped. "I understand very well that people are not attacking me because I'm a woman. They're attacking me because I'm ahead."

The senator was having it both ways. Even as she cashed in on the fact that she is mounting a historic campaign for the presidency -- not the first by a woman, but the first in which a woman might prevail -- Clinton said she was not "running because I'm a woman." Rather, she said, "I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running."

Clinton left her most aggressive challengers, both of whom had been gaining ground on her going into Thursday night's debate, no space.

When former North Carolina Senator John Edwards followed Clinton's "not-playing-the-gender-card" soliloquy with a mild criticism of the frontrunner, he was roundly booed by the crowd.

Not long afterward, when Illinois Senator Barack Obama took a swing at Clinton, he was booed just as loudly.

Clinton had cornered them. They had no room for movement.

She won the night, and she might well have won a great deal more.

Pakistan vs. Punditry

I know the US Democratic contenders' debate is important, but how important, compared to, say, the imposition of martial law in nuclear Pakistan?

If the last debate was any indication, the University of Nevada's Las Vegas campus is right now crawling with reporters assigned to cover the presidential horse-race. According to Drexler University, close to 400 members of the media were "credentialed" for October 30th's debate. More than 200 news organizations covered it. One New York daily sent a "live" blogger and five of their editorial staff, including two political editors and a gossip columnist. (The Daily News's Heidi Evans authored an all-important sidebar on Hillary Clinton's ten-year old bout with deep vein thrombosis.)

As for Pakistan, we called around. According to their spokespeople, US networks are relying on just a handful of reporters to cover what could well be the world's most critical crisis. ABC alone, boasts two full-time producers in Pakistan: Gretchen Peters and Habibullah Khan. Philip Reeves, NPR's man on the story, is based in New Delhi. (Sariah Nelson, reports on the region from Kabul.) NBC opened a bureau in Islamabad two years ago but flew in Richard Engel, Middle East Bureau chief and correspondent to cover the crisis. CBS told us they retain one regular camera crew and use local or flown-in reporters "depending on the story." CNN has a bureau in Islamabad, but declined to offer details. Fox News may not have understood the question.

Talking on RadioNation this week, Jonathan Schell couldn't have put it more strongly. Even before the declaration of a state of emergency, there was an emergency. "The Pakistan of Pervez Musharraf has, by now, become a one-country inventory of all the major forms of the nuclear danger," writes Schell. Crude coverage has created a dangerous over-simplification: "The US media have set things up as strong man vs, terrorist," says journalist and author Ahmed Rashid on this Sunday's program.

Pakistan's journalists, always under pressure, have been fighting for their lives. President Pervez Musharraf's government has shut down local TV stations, stopped foreign cable newscasts and threatened journalists with imprisonment. On Thursday, two of Pakistan's four main national news channels returned to the air. It's unclear if the channel's owners agreed to the government's requirement that they sign a "code of conduct."

Sadly, US media don't need a "code of conduct" to keep them in line. Pakistan vs. Punditry? As far as the US media are concerned, there's simply no comparison.

 

Karl Rove To "Balance" Kos at Newsweek

Newsweek announced that Karl Rove, the controversial architect of the rise and fall of the modern G.O.P., will join its ranks as a new contributor to balance the recent hire of blogger Markos Moulitsas.

This is an odd pair on several levels. First, it makes Kos look huge. His web commentary and grassroots organizing have earned him a media perch on par with one of the most powerful people to ever work in the Bush White House. If columns are going to be handed out based on power, then at least Newsweek understands that there is power beyond holding office in Washington.

Second, it reveals a common misunderstanding of partisanship in the traditional media. In this model, Rove and Moulitsas automatically balance out each other's partisanship, because they are political operators. I doubt it. Rove has spent an entire political career devoted to the advancement of the G.O.P. and its politicians. Moulitsas has spent his political career toggling between support and confrontation with the Democratic Party. Yes, he's a liberal partisan Democrat who generally wants the party to win. But he has repeatedly challenged Democratic politicians, offering criticism, scorn, ridicule and several well-funded primary challenges. He even sits on the board of They Work For Us, an independent organization devoted to pressuring incumbent Democrats and supporting primary challenges. So while Rove and Moulitsas are both more politically active than a typical columnist, they are nowhere near equal on the partisanship scale. Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham says that means readers will "know that what they get from Karl has to be judged in the context of who Karl is...Readers will have to decide if he's simply an apologist." Fine, "reader beware" applies to both of them. Now let's keep track of how many times Rove flatly criticizes Republicans, or calls for a primary against a senior Republican senator in a safe seat.

Third, of course, there's this constant media fixation with "balance" itself. If the goal is something like equal time for liberals and conservatives, most of the media is failing badly. A recent study found conservatives have 60% of the the syndicated newspaper columns, while 58% of the Sunday show guests were conservative in 2005. Then, apart from the numbers, equal time cannot substitute for factual, thoughtful news and commentary. Criticizing Moulitsas' endorsement of the balance approach, Portfolio's Jeff Bercovici breaks it down:

Is that what it's about? Balance? So you have a liberal shouting on one side, and a conservative shouting on the other side, and if their voices exactly cancel each other out, you've done your job? That sounds like Crossfire, or like the obligatory post-debate spin room, not like a magazine with an outsize regard for its own reputation.

 

Maybe we all just have to live in that spin room now. At least it's "balanced" by partisanship.

Questions for Each of the Debating Democrats

The Democratic presidential debate that will be held tonight in Las Vegas promises several things: Attacks on Hillary Clinton by challengers who recognize that she remains the clear front-runner in a race that could be decided in two months, meandering ruminations by CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer that will take up more time than candidate answers and another great one-liner from Delaware Senator Joe Biden, the one candidate who has come to recognize the value of adding genuine comic relief to an otherwise stilted discourse.

But what about the questions? Will there be a further parsing of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles regulations? More inquiries about Halloween costumes and UFOs? Another round of hedge-fund roulette?

Here are some questions that ought to be asked of each of the candidates:

FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Fortune magazine did a cover story with the headline: "Business Loves Hillary!" Your campaign contribution list reads like a Wall Street Rolodex. Your health care plan actually pumps tens of billions of federal dollars into the coffers of existing insurance and for-profit health care firms. If Democrats nominate you, won't voters next November be left with a choice between two corporate candidates?

FOR BARACK OBAMA: You said when you ran for the Senate in 2004 that you planned to model yourself after U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin. Yet, when Feingold responded to the revelation that George Bush had authorized illegal warrantless wiretapping with a proposal that the Senate censure the president, you chose to stand with Bush rather than with Feingold. Why have you refused to join the man you identified as the conscience of the Senate in moving to rebuke the president for breaking the law?

FOR JOHN EDWARDS: You have sought to position yourself as the candidate of working people and a questioner of corporate excess. Yet, when you served in the Senate, you voted to remove barriers to free trade with China. That was a critical test and there was no mystery about what was at stake. Thousands of workers marched on the Capitol to urge a "no" vote. Labor unions from your own state of North Carolina pleaded with you to vote "no." And consumer groups warned of the health and safety problems that are now so much in the news. Still, you sided with the corporate lobbyists and the Clinton administration against the interests of workers and consumers. Why, when the lines were so clearly drawn, did you break with the majority of Democrats in Congress to vote with Wall Street?

FOR DENNIS KUCINICH: You were once the chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and remain active in the organization of more than 70 Democratic members of the House who share many of your views. Why do you think it is that no CPC members are supporting your candidacy? What does this say about your ability to inspire confidence and build coalitions?

FOR CHRIS DODD: You are running as the candidate of the Constitution, promising to undo the abuses of the Bush era. So why did you vote for the Patriot Act when the ACLU and other civil liberties groups were lobbying against it and when Russ Feingold in the Senate and more than 50 members of the House – including several Republicans – had the foresight and the courage to vote "no" when it mattered most?

FOR JOE BIDEN: In an earlier debate, you proposed dispatching tens of thousands of U.S. troops to Africa as a means of addressing the Darfur crisis. You voted to authorize George Bush to send U.S. troops to Iraq. You were an aggressive advocate for stepping up U.S. military action in the Balkans. The list goes on. Shouldn't Americans who have come to recognize the folly of the neo-conservative vision of using U.S. troops as cannon fodder in every fight on the planet be frightened by the prospect of you as commander-in-chief?

FOR BILL RICHARDSON: After you left the Clinton administration, you became a senior managing director of Kissinger McLarty Associates, a so-called "strategic advisory firm" headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. When President Bush moved to appoint Kissinger as chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Congressional Democrats demanded that Kissinger disclose the names of the firm's clients. Rather than do so, Kissinger rejected the presidential appointment, citing conflicts of interest. As you seek the presidency, will you disclose the names of the clients of Kissinger McLarty Associates during the period when you were associated with the firm?

FOR ALL THE CANDIDATES: You have all been highly critical of President Bush and even more critical of Vice President Cheney. Each of you has suggested that the president and vice president have engaged in dishonest and inappropriate actions that are at odds with their oaths of office and their duties as dictated by the Constitution. Last week, Dennis Kucinich tried last week to open a congressional debate on whether Dick Cheney should be impeached. Mr. Kucinich, why when American Research Group polling shows that 54 percent of voters surveyed favor impeachment of Cheney did Democratic leaders in the House oppose your move? For the rest of the candidates: Would you have joined Mr. Kucinich in voting to open up the debate on presidential and vice presidential accountability, or would you have voted to table the resolution?

Jonathan Schell, Historian of the Nuclear Conundrum

Before I met Jonathan Schell, I already knew him in the best way possible: on the page. Even in his days as a neophyte journalist in Vietnam, he committed a writer's greatest act of generosity. First in the pages of The New Yorker, and then in his books, he took readers to places most of us never could have gone on our own -- to The Village of Ben Suc, for instance, as American troops cleared it of its 3,500 peasant inhabitants and destroyed it in what was, in 1967, the largest military operation of the Vietnam War to date; and, not so long after, in The Military Half -- from the back seats of tiny Forward Air Control planes -- to two South Vietnamese provinces where Americans were wreaking utter havoc. (In that book, he offered a still-unmatched journalistic vision of what war looks like, up close and personal, from the air.) In the 1970s, in The Time of Illusion, he would seat us all front-row center at the great Constitutional crisis that preceded our present one, the Nixonian near coup d'état that we now call "Watergate."

In The Unconquerable World (for which I was the editor), looking back from a new century, he considered several hundred years of growing state violence that culminated in a single weapon capable of destroying all before it -- and the various paths, violent and nonviolent, by which the people of this planet refused to heed the wishes of a seemingly endless series of putative imperial masters. I needed to know no more to feel sure, in March 2003, that the shock-and-awe fantasies of the Bush administration would be just that. In other words, he made me seem prophetic at Tomdispatch.

But if one subject has been his, it's been the nuclear issue. Like me, he came into this world more or less with the Bomb (a word which, back when it represented the only world-destroying thing around, we tended to capitalize) and its exterminatory possibilities have never left his thoughts. In his bestselling The Fate of the Earth, as the 1980s began (and an antinuclear movement grew), he approached the subject in print, beginning famously: "Since July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated, at the Trinity test site, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, mankind has lived with nuclear weapons in its midst." And so, sadly, we continue to do, despite his best efforts. He returned to the subject (when critics claimed he had no "solution" to the nuclear conundrum he had so vividly laid out) in The Abolition in 1984, and again in the post-Cold War 1990s, in The Gift of Time, The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, when the vast arsenals of the two superpowers were still sitting there like great unmentionable embarrassments, mission-less and yet going nowhere fast. (It was, of course, a time when people largely preferred to pretend that the nuclear danger was a thing of the past.)

Now 62 years old, the bomb (which, long ago, lost its capital B) is no longer an embarrassment, no longer mission-less. The old Cold War arsenals are being updated; possession of the weaponry has spread; and the Bush administration, which drove the American people to war partly with nuclear fantasies, has made such weapons, whether real or imagined, the heart and soul of its imperial policies -- and again, there is a Jonathan Schell book to guide us. Think of The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger as a brilliant intervention, an essential guidebook to a world gone mad in a new way.

It begins: "The nuclear age has entered its seventh decade. If it were a person, it would be thinking about retirement -- reckoning up its pension funds, weighing different medical plans. But historical periods, unlike human lives, have no fixed limit, and the nuclear age is in fact displaying youthful vigor." It is officially published today and what a moment to enter the world--just as the Bush (are-you-with-us-or-against-us) has collapsed in nuclear-armed Pakistan, having already (as Schell writes in his most recent piece) "stoked the nuclear fires it was meant to quench."

 

Debating Downwind in Nevada

Tonight in Las Vegas--a town best known for slots, boxing, andspectacle--the Democratic presidential hopefuls gather for one ofthe final pre-primary debates.

The Democratic Party moved the Nevada caucus up on the 2008 electioncalendar--third after Iowa and New Hampshire--to allow for a greaterrange of regional diversity in early voting than in the past. (SouthCarolina was also awarded an early primary spot). One issue that won'tbe debated in Iowa or New Hampshire but will loom large in the SilverState is Yucca Mountain.

Watch for each candidate to oppose Yucca Mountain and thedisastrous plan to ship our nation's nuclear waste thousands of miles byroad and rail to be buried in an area with a record of earthquakeactivity.

Lurking behind those two words is an important living nuclearhistoryin the state which deserves attention. Between 1951 and 1992, 928above-ground and below-ground nuclear tests were conducted at the NevadaTestSite, just miles from where the candidates will be debating in LasVegas. Initially, the public was assured "there is no danger" and urgedto "participate in a moment of history"by watching the tests.

But, in fact, people downwind of the tests--downwinders--continue to sufferand die from the lethal fallout they were exposedto. Exposed,a new play by downwinder Mary Dickson, examines the Utah playwright'sown struggle with thyroid cancer and her sister's death from lupus atthe age of 46. It uses transcripts of hearings to explore similarexperiences of other victims who became sick, and lost friends and lovedones. The government denied any link to radiation. The play spansfifty years, and downwinders keep "cancer charts" chronicling theafflictions of their neighbors. It also addresses the BushAdministration's proposed Divine Strakein 2007--a subnuclear test blast--and the downwinders' organizingefforts that helped to defeat it. The play ends with the reading of thenames of downwinders who have died, and new names are added after eachshow.

We cannot forget this living history. As Dickson told me,"Understanding the full extent of that reckless human experiment shouldinform any decision on both the development of new nuclear weapons andthe illusory promise of nuclear power. Without that understanding,politicians will be too easily swayed to consider mini nukes and bunkerbusters as strategically viable weapons in the 'war on terror'--just asthey will too readily embrace nuclear power as a solution to globalwarming. The development of any new nuclear weapons inevitably opens thedoor to resumed testing in Nevada and leads to the destabilizingproliferation of nukes--both of which are a disastrous course that onlyput us more at risk. Nuclear power is an illusory solution to climatechange--one propagated by the nuclear industry, which still cannotanswer the vexing question of what to do with the dangerous waste itgenerates. Until the waste can be addressed, nuclear power is neither aviable nor a responsible option."

This living history is nowhere to be found at the Las Vegas'taxpayer-funded Atomic Testing Museum. The exhibits excise the storiesof nuclear testing victims--instead celebrating nuclear weapons as "safe, patriotic and just plain fun." As the New York Times wrote, "the history of testing, as told [in the museum], is largely the history of its justification."

That living history, as told by Dickson, should inform votersin this election as the Bush Administration and its allies (and too manyDemocrats) look to create a new generation of usable nuclear weapons.It should inform us as Big Nuclear ignores the "serious issuesof nuclear plant safety, security against sabotage and terrorist attackand waste disposal" in promoting new plants. And it should inspireparticipation in renewed anti-nuclear activism as the nuclear industry lobbies for new subsidies for itsself-proclaimed "nuclear renaissance."

Bridge Ladies Slammed for Anti-Bush Sign

"WE DID NOT VOTE FOR BUSH." Those words were handwritten on the back of a menu by the US women's bridge team and held aloft during the award ceremony at the world team championships in Shanghai last month. The team had just won the tournament, destroying Germany in the final, and were making what they thought was a small political statement. It wasn't a particularly radical message (who else didn't vote for Bush?), and it was made spontaneously, in a moment of international goodwill and humor.

As today's NYT chronicles, the United States Bridge Federation was not amused. Its president, Jan Martel, and executive board are pushing for tough sanctions against the entire team--a one-year suspension, plus a one-year probation, 200 hours of bridge-related community service and a formal apology. Bridge Federation lawyer Alan Falk threatened team members with "greater sanction" if they reject the Federation's offer. Team members have been accused by other players of "treason" and "sedition," according to the NYT. On message boards they've been compared to the Dixie Chicks and Tommie Smith and John Carlos--US sprinters who raised a fist in salute to Black Power at the 1968 Olympics and were subsequently ejected from the games.

This is not your grandmother's card game! I've dabbled in the world of bridge myself, and as anyone who's played a tournament can tell you--bridge is ruthless. Little old ladies, so sweet pre-game, will mercilessly ruff you up once the cards are dealt. But what are the folks at the Bridge Federation thinking? The game's logic is punitive (you get spanked for bidding too high), but the game itself should not be--particularly on matters of free speech. Nothing makes the game look more backwards, small-minded and elitist than punishing a championship team for using their moment of glory to send a political message well within the mainstream of American society. What's next? Banning certain t-shirts? Buttons? Maybe bridge should only be played in uniform?

But take heart, the fabulous ladies at the center of this controversy aren't ready to make nice, and I'm glad they're putting up a fight. All across this country the common but courageous dissent of citizens is being censored and attacked. Anti-war vets calling for withdrawal from Iraq were banned from a parade in Long Beach, CA. High school students in Chicago are threatened with expulsion for staging a peaceful anti-war protest. More than a dozen anti-war protesters, fittingly wearing gags over their mouths, were arrested outside of Boston's city hall.

And the list goes on. As individual incidents, each provoke a momentary pang of sympathy, a head nod, maybe an exasperated email to your bridge buddies. But taken as a whole, I suspect it adds up to a more disturbing picture--of a nation that went quietly mad, except for a few who spoke up and were ostracized for it; of a country where politics became so estranged from everyday life, that the ordinary expression of it was called treason.

If you're mad as hell and want to support the US women's bridge team--email Jan Martel (President, United States Bridge Federation) at janmartel@comcast.net and the board at board@usbf.org. Left-leaning, free-speech loving bridge players are especially encouraged!

State Department Auditor: Blackwater-Connected, Mean

There are so many accusations directed at State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard for preventing inspections of State Department mismanagement in Iraq, it can get confusing. But two things became clear after today's House Committee Hearing on Oversight and Government Reform:

1. Howard Krongard's brother Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard is, irrefutably, on Blackwater's Advisory Board.

2. Howard Krongard is a pain in the ass to work for.

We know the first because Krongard told the committee he called his brother to ask him about it during a break in the hearing. It's a good thing Buzzy picked up the phone, because the dispute between the Inspector General and committee members was getting strange.

During his under-oath testimony Krongard called allegations his brother advises Blackwater an "ugly rumor." The matter was then seemingly dropped until Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings questioned Krongard and referenced two e-mails Blackwater CEO Erik Prince sent to Krongard's brother. One invited him to join the advisory board and the second provided an itinerary for the board's meeting yesterday in Virginia.

Then California Democrat Diane Watson said the committee staff had called the hotel and found that, indeed, Buzzy had checked in as a guest.

Howard Krongard reasoned at the time that, "He might be at the hotel to tell them he's not joining the advisory board." Though, in fact, he was there as part of a strategic planning session for Blackwater. My bad, said Howard Krongard. "I am not not my brothers keeper."

The botched sibling communications aside, the bigger issue may be Krongard's failed interactions with State Department colleagues. Whistleblowers who worked with Krongard have called him an "embarrassment to the community" and "an affront to our profession."

A report by the Republican staff committee disputes Krongard's obstruction of investigations but confirms he had "an extraordinarily abusive management style."

Krongard himself doesn't really contest this.

"I know I was being too hard; I know I was expecting too much," he admitted but added that as a "teammate in sports" and "partner in private partnerships" there "wasn't a personal affront when you tried to change what someone is doing or correct it."

Oh, and the actual accusations against Krongard brought by Committee Chair Henry Waxman: They include stonewalling an investigation into construction of the Bagdhad embassy, not cooperating with a Justice Department criminal probe into Blackwater arms smuggling, not scrutinizing fraud in rewarding DynCorp contracts, and failing to audit the State Department's financial statements. The people blowing the whistle are several of Krongard's former direct underlings at State, including the Deputy Inspector General.

So if Waxman and the Democrats are right and these allegations are largely true, Krongard's State Department oversight is a major, major scandal. And if the Republicans are closer to the truth, Krongard was such a nightmarish boss that his employees go behind his back to tell elaborate lies. At least his brother seems to be doing well.