Campaign verbiage, Israeli security

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Here are a couple of topics I think you will find interesting;

Campaigns let loaded words fly: You know the campaign season is in full bloom when candidates begin using words such as "scheme," "questionable," "smoking gun" and violations" in referring to the actions of their rivals.

Last week, the two Democratic candidates for Missouri governor, Bob Holden and Claire McCaskill, were tossing around loaded words with abandon. And both showed remarkable consistency in how they dealt with the charges.

They denied. They quickly changed the subject. They accused the other of something new.

Buy week's end, all the finger-pointing appeared to be wearing out the campaign. "Holden Campaign Responds to McCaskill Campaign's Response to the Holden Campaign," read one headline over a Holden news release.

Last week's parade began on Tuesday with a front-page story in The Kansas City Star questioning McCaskill's handling of a drug investigation involving an employee in the Jackson County prosecutor's office that McCaskill once led.

McCaskill denied any wrongdoing, then responded with a salvo aimed squarely at what she called an illegal campaign-cash funneling scheme by Holden.

The catalyst for the charge was a letter from Sam Hamra, a Holden fund-raiser in Springfield. His June 22 letter to another Springfield lawyer encouraged the lawyer to donate money to Democratic Party committees, which then would forward the funds to Holden's campaign.

Problem is, the state ethics commission bars such "earmarking" of funds as a way to get around individual donation limits.

Not to be outdone, Holden fired back an ethics charge of his own, declaring that $575,411 that McCaskill's husband had lent the campaign amounted to an illegal donation because the McCaskill campaign was not paying interest on the loans.

McCaskill's camp countered that the Holden complaint about the loans was "either gross incompetence or malicious" and "clearly meant to distract the public" from the "earmarking" charge.

"Distract" is a key word here. On Tuesday, the Holden camp noticed that a Kansas City-based group, Missourians for Accountability, had launched a pro-McCaskill TV-ad buy totaling at least $200,000 in markets outside Kansas City.

Independent groups such as this one are free to finance their own ad campaigns. What they can't do is coordinate those ad buys with the campaign they support.

But Holden's camp smelled a rat when the group's buy began at almost precisely the same time that McCaskill's campaign stopped running ads for a few days to save money.

One final shot last week: McCaskill charged that some of the supporters listed on Holden's Web site were actually McCaskill backers.

Voters will have to work hard to sort through all this. Campaigns have become more sophisticated than ever before in the fine art of distracting, conniving and manipulating.

Of all the charges and countercharges, the two that might draw serious attention from the state Ethics Committee are the earmarking accusation and the question of coordination involving Missourians for Accountability.

Democrats have to be worried that the campaign will tear the party apart. If the Democrats are to have a shot in November against Republican Matt Blunt, McCaskill and Holden had better watch it. -- Steve Kraske, The Kansas City Star

WMD, R.I.P. A familiar news story: A hard-line government uses its powerful military to launch a unilateral pre-emptive strike. The United Nations and Europe are horrified, along with most of the American media. They condemn the strike and brush off claims that it was justified as an act of self-defense against an unpredictable tyrant.

So was it a terrible mistake, a lamentable error of judgment? Not at all. History now smiles on Israel's elimination of Saddam's nearly completed weapon of mass destruction more than 20 years ago.

In June 1981, eight Israeli jets flew at 100 feet across Jordan and Saudi Arabia, evading detection to destroy the French nuclear reactor at Osirak, just outside Baghdad.

The raid followed years of failed diplomacy: Saddam's French, German and Belgian suppliers had refused to let anything disrupt their lucrative role in his oil-for-nukes program.

Until now, no one had told the full story of the extraordinary planning required for the raid and the derring-do of the pilots, who had calculated that there was a one-in-four chance of being shot out of the sky before reaching the target. Rodger Claire, a former magazine editor, has gained access to Israeli military records and to the pilots who handled the mission. In "Raid on the Sun," he evokes the rigors and the risks of the plan.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin and His Likud allies, such as Ariel Sharon, had to stiffen the spines of Labor Party and intelligence officials who feared the repercussions of such a raid. "If I have a choice of being popular and dead or unpopular and alive," Mr. Sharon told fellow cabinet members, "I choose being alive and unpopular."

The 600-mile trip to the facility went well beyond the design specs of Israel's U.S.-built F-16 Fighting Falcons, which carried special 2,000-pound bombs and jury-rigged external fuel tanks. The book focuses on Gen. David Ivry, commander of the Israeli Air Force, and on the eight mission pilots. These included Ilan Ramon, who would later die in the Columbia space-shuttle explosion.

A movie-maker unafraid of political correctness -- the Israeli military as heroic! -- could build a blockbuster around this story.

World opinion was all but unanimous in its outrage, and American opinion too. The New York Times editorialized that "Israel's sneak attack on a French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression." Time magazine fretted that "Israel has vastly compounded the difficulties of procuring a peaceful settlement of the confrontation in the Middle East." The U.S. secretary of state called the raid "reckless." The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said it was "shocking" and approved a U.N. resolution demanding that Israel make "appropriate redress" to Iraq.

There was at least one exception to the media's chorus of denunciation. Under the headline "Mourning the Bomb," The Wall Street Journal's lead editorial began: "An atom bomb for Iraq, we have learned in the past 24 hours, has become the latest great cause celebre of world opiniondom. Various governments, including our own, and a lot of pundits have been busily condemning Israel's raid on Iraq's nuclear reactor. Our own reaction is that it's nice to know that in Israel we have at least one nation left that still lives in the world of reality."

The editorial added: "Of course Iraq was building a bomb," and "of course given the Iraqi reputation for political nuttiness reaffirmed again in its starting a war with Iran, its atom bomb would also have been a danger to all its neighbors. We all ought to get together and send the Israelis a vote of thanks."

Israel sought security, not world gratitude, a realism that the U.S. perhaps should recall as we endure current carping. If even the Reagan administration at first condemned the action, we probably shouldn't be surprised by today's handwringing over the U.S. handling of Saddam, Iraq and the Bush doctrine of pre-emption. -- Excerpt from a Wall Street Journal book review by Gordon Crovitz, senior vice president, Dow Jones & Co.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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