Thursday, January 18, 2007

Embedded with Bush

Contrary to the popular impression given by politicians and pundits alike, President Bush‘s new Iraq strategy is closely aligned with the many recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), says former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, a member of the ISG.

At a National Press Club briefing this week, Mr. Meese said he felt the press had misled the public by exaggerating differences between the White House and ISG members.

“There were only a few areas in which there were any significant differences,” he said. “This is not unusual in a report of this kind. But these differences were greatly exaggerated in press reports. The reality is that most of the recommendations of the study group are embedded in the new strategy. This is an important outcome — and it is a story that has been largely ignored.”

Mr. Meese was speaking at a symposium organized by the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a Washington-based think tank led by former NATO ambassador and presidential counselor David Abshire. The center played an important behind-the-scenes organizational and support role for the ISG.

Mr. Abshire spoke passionately of the need for a return to civility, inclusiveness and bipartisan cooperation in the public life of the nation, particularly in regard to policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism. The present atmosphere of disunity, distrust and open hostility among those holding differing views is neither helpful nor necessary, he said.

“It is against the best interests of the United States at this critical time in our history,” said Mr. Abshire, reminding the audience of policy-makers that civility and inclusiveness were not new concepts, but dated to the nation’s Founding Fathers and are embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

“We need to return to these principles — today more than ever,” he said.

Just get out

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat and continuous candidate for president, has just announced a 12-point plan to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq:

1. The U.S. announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw.

2. The U.S. announces it will use existing funds to bring the troops and the necessary equipment home.

3. Order a simultaneous return of all U.S. contractors and turn over all contracting work to the Iraqi government.

4. Convene a regional conference to develop a security and stabilization force in Iraq.

5. Prepare an international security and peacekeeping force to move in.

The remaining seven?

“This is a 12-point plan, and I will be presenting more features of it in future sessions,” he explains.

Vive Fidel!

Art Buchwald was more than just a humor columnist, longtime friend Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post told Inside the Beltway yesterday; he was among a dying breed of newspapermen.

“That’s true, he was,” Mr. Bradlee said after learning that Mr. Buchwald, 81, died of kidney failure in Washington on Wednesday night.

“I’ve known him for over 50 years; we were together in Paris, and we’ve been involved with each other ever since, and our families. He was just always there,” said Mr. Bradlee, a former executive editor of The Post. “He was a loyal, funny, warm and kind man. He’d been awfully sick for a long time, so it’s a mercy that he went.”

Still, Mr. Bradlee noted that Mr. Buchwald had him laughing till the end, commenting before he died: “I just don’t want to die the same day Castro dies.”

Real reform

Americans devote an estimated 7.4 billion hours each year trying to figure out what they owe Uncle Sam in taxes.

Now, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, is reintroducing legislation that would “terminate” the entire tax code as we know it (or as we rely on H&R Block to figure out for us).

“Today’s tax code is … impossibly complex,” says Mr. Goodlatte, explaining that his Tax Code Termination Act would abolish the Internal Revenue Code by the end of 2010, after calling on Congress to approve a new federal tax system by July of that year.

Endless hats

Philip D. Zelikow, the executive director of the September 11 commission who most recently was counselor to the State Department, is joining the public policy and lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC as a senior adviser specializing in conflict resolution to political and risk management.

Some also might recall Mr. Zelikow’s stewardship of the “Ford-Carter” National Commission on Federal Election Reform, which saw to the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. He also has been a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board — that is when not wearing a teacher’s cap at Harvard University and the University of Virginia, where as we speak he’s the White Burkett Miller Professor of History.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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