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Nota Bene #18 Part 1 of 2

Nota Bene attempts to provide an overview of the week’s news. Meanwhile, in its appendix, we cull trenchant comments to articles and posts, as well as those heard in person or emailed. This week Nota Bene appears in two installments: Political and foreign policy today; the economy, lifestyle, and the appendix on Wednesday.

Candidate for most surprising person to come to the defense of Obama for his “Small town comments” (also known as Bitter-gate)? How about correspondent David Brody of Pat Robertson’s network, CBN News? “Look, could Obama have said the whole thing better?” he asked. Of course, “but to me this seems like a case of piling on. We talk a lot in Christian circles about giving people ‘grace’ but in politics those same rules don’t apply.”

That was the bad and the ugly for Obama. Here’s the good. At the Petraeus-Crocker hearings, writes Joe Klein in his Time magazine piece, “Petraeus Meets His Match,” senators were asking, “If things were going so well, why were Crocker and Petraeus so reluctant to come home? The Senator who mined this turf most profitably was. . . Barack Obama.”

At one point, Obama “dropped the hammer. . . . ‘There’s still violence; there’s still some traces of al-Qaeda; Iran has influence more than we would like. But if we had the current status quo and yet our troops had been drawn down to 30,000, would we consider that a success?’ Crocker [was] semi-speechless. . . . But Obama’s question was more diabolical. . . . How much better does the situation need to be for us to leave?”

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Klein also wrote, “But the Petraeus battle plan apparently includes an anti-Sadrist move, which may mean a spurt of violence as widespread and vicious as the worst of the Sunni insurgency. Is that why the general wants a ‘pause’ in the U.S. withdrawal this summer?” Can’t believe I’m actually throwing some praise the way of the usually unsavory Klein.

In his article, “Endless Enemies,” at AntiWar.com, Justin Raimondo concurs. “Obama, for his part, was flawless: his questions cut right to the heart of the issue. In what should be taught in schools as a textbook case of how to think logically and make rational judgments, Obama demystified. . . the supposedly horrific consequences of a U.S. withdrawal.” He asked “what degree of imperfection will we allow ourselves before we define where the endpoint is? . . . . Obama framed the question with such clarity that it seemed to answer itself.”

On Bush handing the Iraq war off to Petraeus, Juan Cole gets off the quote of the week at Informed Comment: “So Congress abdicated to Bush. Bush has abdicated to the generals in the field. That is not a Republic. That is a military dictatorship achieved not by coup but by moral laziness.”[Emphasis added.]

Israel’s Ynet News reports that Obama has started a Hebrew blog. “Obama’s campaign managers decided to launch this blog prior to the Philadelphia primaries in an attempt to win over the city’s ample Jewish community. . . . The senator’s Middle East Advisor, Eric Lynn [has already blogged] that “it is very important to Barack Obama to directly converse with the Israeli public and clearly indicate his unwavering support for the State of Israel.” Doubtless, though, nothing will convince it that he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Israel-phile.

The Green Zone has now become the danger zone. Since March 23, reports Sholln Freeman in the Washington Post, four Americans and 14 non-Americans have been killed by shelling. “‘It’s like a light switch,’ said Russ Partridge, a Green Zone contractor. ‘When Sadr gets pissed off, rockets rain in.'”

President Bush offended many with his insensitivity when, addressing the troops in Afghanistan by videoconference, he said, “It must be exciting for you. . . in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.” At AntiWar.com, Illinois newspaper reporter John Markley commented, “I too once thought that war was a romantic and exciting adventure. In my defense, I was five years old at the time.”

Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who we last remember from the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, recently gave a talk at National Defense University, reports Nukes of Hazard. It concerned the dangers of nuclear weapons — of abolishing them, that is. “Kyl complained that the U.S. used to maintain a robust nuclear force. . . but that that is currently being eroded. The U.S. has let its nuclear infrastructure wither away. . . . With the eroding work force, it is like having a brain surgeon who has never worked on brains.” And you’re like having a Republican whip in the Senate who has no brains.

What makes it hard for Iranian security advisors to sleep at night? At Asia Times Online, Kaveh Afrasiabi has the answer. “According to Mahmoud Vaezi, a former deputy foreign minister, ‘At present, the three main national security concerns of Iran [are:] terrorism and extremism, weak governments and crisis of government, and the intervention of non-regional powers.” Hmm. What war does that sound like? Therefore, adds Afrasiabi, “it would be sheer error on the US’s part to ignore Iran’s predominant interest in Iraq’s security and stability, the lack of which threatens Iran’s own interests.” [Emphasis added.]

At OpenLeft, Chris Bowers expounds on the unlikelihood that Congoleum Condoleezza Rice will be John McCain’s running mate. If “she were to run for vice-president now, it would mean an instant end to the [Israel-Palestine peace process on which she’s embarked], all for her personal glory of achieving greater power. It is hard to think of a worse way to begin your campaign for vice-president than by personally causing the nascent peace talks to end in the interests of self-glorification.”

Mike Lupica, sportswriter and sometime political columnist for the New York Daily News, writes: “Sen. McCain really does need to cut down on those Sunni-Shia moments when he sounds like Mel Brooks doing the 2000 Year Old Man, right?”

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