Friday, April 9, 2004

Nobles: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, for courage in the crisis.

Mr. Koizumi is currently confronting a heartrending hostage situation and his hardest political test. On Thursday, three of his citizens in Iraq — teen-ager Niriaki Imai, aid worker Nahoko Takato and freelance photo journalist Soichiro Koriyama — were kidnapped by a group of extremist Iraqi militants. The kidnappers showcased their captures on a video sent to the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera and added a demand — the withdrawal of Japanese forces from Iraq within three days. If Mr. Koizumi does not give in, the kidnappers have promised to burn the victims alive.

Families of the victims have pleaded for the kidnappers’ demands to be met. As if those tears and his own worst fears were not sufficient to force a change in course, Mr. Koizumi is also under enormous political pressure. Leaders of opposition parties have blamed Mr. Koizumi for the crisis, and their criticisms could carry into July, when elections for the House of Councilors (the upper house in the National Diet) will be held.

Yet Mr. Koizumi has remained firm, telling reporters, “We must not yield to terrorists’ foul threats.” As September 11, 2001 demonstrated, terrorists make no distinction between civilians and soldiers, between self-defense and murder. At any time, any leader of a free people could be faced with the test of terror.

Mr. Koizumi is meeting that challenge with unwavering courage. For being steadfast in the storm, Mr. Koizumi is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: Zack Exley, for electronic election law evasions.

On Wednesday, Mr. Exley, the special projects director of the political action committee, left his office — and his laptop — to take a terminal at the presidential campaign of John Kerry as director of online communications and organization.

That brazen move came just a week after the campaign of President Bush filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) claiming that and the Kerry campaign were illegally coordinating their political advertising. Such coordination is unlawful under new campaign finance strictures. executive director Eli Pariser claimed that Mr. Exley is “Not bringing any technology or any physical material to the Kerry campaign.” However, coordination is inherent in the mind. Mr. Exley is likely to remember a few of his former colleagues’ e-mail addresses. He might even see a few of them at the occasional Kerry campaign event. After all, an entry on Mr. Kerry’s blog (http// shows the “combined forces” of Berkeley California’s East Bay for Kerry and meeting at a joint house party.

Mr. Exley has plenty of acquaintances in the movement. If there were such a thing as a “Streisand Scholarship or an “Franken Fellowship” for liberal activism, he would certainly qualify. Born in Connecticut, he spent five years as a union activist in Boston and received training at a workshop sponsored by the radical Ruckus Society. Mr. Exley won liberal acclaim for putting up a parody campaign Website for President Bush in 2000 and worked for Howard Dean’s campaign during this season’s Democratic primaries.

Mr. Kerry was dubbed the “international man of mystery” until he rejected the foreign endorsements he had allegedly received, so perhaps it’s appropriate that Mr. Exley will have to operate in the campaign equivalent of Maxwell Smart’s cone of silence in order for him to follow the letter of the campaign finance law that Mr. Kerry voted for.

For his brazen flouting of federal election laws, Mr. Exley is the Knave of the week.

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