Posts Tagged ‘Guess Who Has a New Book to Promote’

With the imminent publication of my book on August 4, I have created a new official site, for my books as well as any future articles or blog posts. This site will not shut down, but will remain in a state of suspended animation.  Hope to see you all at the new site and thank you for your readership over the years!




Talk about the pot and the kettle… During an interview on “Fox and Friends” this morning, the Donald made the following comments:

“Ron Paul’s not going to win. He’s got no chance.

You have a better chance right now of winning, and you’re not running, and so he’s not going to win.

He’s a joke candidate.

Here’s a man who doesn’t care if Iran has a nuclear weapon that can wipe out Israel. He doesn’t care. He says ‘Let them do whatever they want. They can make their own nuclear weapons’.

It’s ridiculous, so he’s not going to win, he’s not going anywhere, he’s cutesy, he’s got some nice, little slogans.”

Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who teased a possible presidential run based in large part on taking the birther issue to absurd new heights, was savagely mocked to his face for it by President Obama and Seth Meyers, withdrew from the race, and recently teased the possibility of entering the race as a third party candidate just as Newsmax announced he would be moderating their Republican debate on December 27. By the way, he made the Ron Paul comments during an interview to promote his new book.

I’m not for or against Paul or Trump, but the timing and substance of Trump’s comments – coming shortly after Ron Paul’s campaign chairman blasted the Newsmax debate – is disingenuous. Trump has a propensity to inject himself in the political debate to generate buzz or attention for himself and his brand, whether it be his TV show or his book. Ron Paul has been in public office for decades and run for president three times. Who’s the joke candidate here?

The New America Foundation will be hosting a discussion on the Cheney vice presidency on December 2. Participants will include Bart Gellman, author of the Cheney VP biography (which I highly recommend), Steve Coll of The New Yorker and Steve Clemons of The Washington Note.

If you’re in the DC area, I would recommend going to this.

I recently finished reading “Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis” by former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy. Before I go any further with this, I should note in the interest of full disclosure that Mike was a teacher of mine at USC, and that I transcribed several interviews and contributed some research for this book.

It’s an excellent read, although the nuances of nuclear proliferation policy may be a bit complicated for a person unfamiliar with the issues surrounding America’s complicated relationship with North Korea. Mike does a good job documenting some of the behind-the-scenes power struggles within the Bush administration. There’s enough duplicity and backstabbing going on to rival any reality TV show, only that there are real world consequences as a result.

The major characters in this book – secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, nonproliferation chief John Bolton, North Korea negotiator Christopher Hill, and others – come across as dedicated public servants regardless of their position on the ideological and diplomatic spectrum in handling the North Korea issue, even when they are at each others’ throats.

Mike also does a good job at analyzing the M.O. of the North Koreans, parsing through the public and private statements of government officials as well as the official reports from the North Korean news agency to put developments and events into context, and how these comments often foretold of positive or negative developments in the U.S.-North Korea relationship. It’s easy and tempting to try and dismiss the North Koreans for their behavior, and wonder about how accurate the caricature of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Kim Jong Il really is (I’ve been guilty of that), but they certainly do not come across this way in the book.

If there is such a thing as being able to figure out what makes North Korea and Dear Leader tick, Mike is probably pretty close to it. He once said to me words to the effect that Kim Jong Il was as rational as a person could be in an irrational environment. Some of the words and actions of the North Korean government do seem irrational, and even childish at times. Their nuclear test in October of 2006 was neither of these, but rather something akin to Glenn Close’s famous line in the movie Fatal Attraction: “I’m not gonna be ignored.”

There are no bombshells in this book like George Tenet’s infamous slam dunk comment, but Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler reviewed Meltdown and has a far better understanding of the news value and significance of what Mike uncovered in the course of his reporting for this book.

Regardless of who wins the election next week, the next president will have to figure out how to continue dealing with North Korea and make sure that the relationship does not deteriorate the way it did during the past eight years.

Dick Cheney after having lunch at a Roman Restaurant.  September 7, 2008

Dick Cheney after having lunch at a Roman restaurant. September 7, 2008

I recently finished reading Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman’s book “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.” It’s a tour-de-force of investigative, political, national security, and economic reporting based on a series of articles he co-wrote for the Post last year that won a Pulitzer Prize.

Having lived and worked in Washington DC during the first five years of the Bush presidency, the power and influence of Cheney was clear immediately.  According to Gellman’s book, Cheney’s office was intimately involved in nearly every major policy decision of the administration, and as I found out from my own investigation and field reporting while working at CNN, it was also Ground Zero for one of its biggest scandals.

The most surprising revelation in Gellman’s reporting to me was how he pieced together Cheney’s M.O.  He comes across as the ultimate bureaucratic warrior, knowing how the system works inside out, knowing where the loopholes are, and how to use them to his advantage.

Cheney was not Bush’s svengali or puppetmaster, as many liberals have claimed.  But he still managed to get a lot of his views and positions adopted in the policymaking process at lower levels in the bureaucracy, by placing ideological allies in key middle and senior-level positions throughout the federal government.  By the time the whole process had played itself out and made its way to the president, Cheney’s position nearly always came out on top.

Cheney comes across as something of a zealot, not necessarily because of his hardline conservative ideology but rather, because of his methods.  Even when the subject of the book focused on Iraq, I did not get the impression that Bob Woodward did when he wrote in Plan of Attack that Cheney had a fever regarding the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a view attributed to Colin Powell, if my memory is correct.

The biggest bombshells in the book were the behind the scenes tick-tock of the Department of Justice’s impasse with the White House over the legality of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, which nearly led to a Saturday Night Massacre-esque decapitation of the national security legal team of the federal government.  The second was the revelation from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey that Cheney misled (if not outright lied) to him about the intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs during a private briefing after Armey expressed public doubt about the need to invade Iraq.

What makes the book more impressive is that Gellman was able to get a fair, balanced, and accurate portrayal of Cheney without the benefit of an interview.  He digs deep into the government bureaucracy and spoke extensively with Cheney’s friends and rivals to make sure that a well-rounded picture of his vice presidency came to light.

The major supporting character who pretty much jumps off every page in this book is Cheney’s counsel (and now chief of staff) David Addington, who shares his boss’s views about an expansive, near-unchecked power of the executive branch on matters of war and national security.   Even though Scooter Libby held the chief of staff role until his indictment in 2005, he did not come across in the book anywhere near as big a player in the government as Addington.

This is a very well-written and researched book which, until years pass and internal documents from the Bush White House are declassified and published, will likely be the standard by which all biographies of the Cheney vice presidency will be measured.