Let me apologize for making this The Lunch Table. I admit I'm a late-starter. Chris was already off on a run while I was having a second cup of coffee and a muffin. ... So, here he's put us in the Middle East, which could take up the table all week if we try to sort it out. I'm more of a hawk than Chris, not in an axis of evil way but in a "we have to do something about Hussein's infant nukes, VX poison, and germ warfare" way. It has to be fierce and quick because Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, can retaliate with the substantial arsenal it already has, at least against Israel, if not the United States.
You're right, Chris: We wouldn't have the 15-year-old kid in Cairo or the 25-year-old jobless grad rooting for us in a war with Iraq. But do we have them with us now? Isn't there already a limitless supply of young Arabs willing to kill themselves out of hatred for America, not just hatred for Israel?
In any event, the war talk should stop, given the Washington Post story that we are plum out of the materiel to wage another. Hasn't the Pentagon said the United States is prepared to fight a two-front war? What's happened to that?
The talk got softer last week on Bush's Asian trip, as he backed off his inclusion of North Korea—without actually retracting its membership—in the axis of evil. The Times this morning had a good piece on Bush's verbal gaffes but failed to mention his opening remarks in Japan, where he celebrated the strong alliance between the United States and Japan that has endured for a century and a half. This was scripted, so it must have been a speechwriter, not Bush himself, who forgot Pearl Harbor, but what were they thinking? Could I have heard wrong?
To get back home, did you see John Q., one of the most overly hysterical films ever made? Yet it brings you along on its rant. A better movie, As Good as It Gets, was much more subtle on the same issue when Helen Hunt's asthmamatic son finally gets to see a private doctor, thanks to Jack Nicholson, who schedules tests and treatments that dramatically improve the boy's health. Without being cued to do so, the audience cheered when Hunt turns to her mother and says "that damn HMO." Anyway, what people need to get health care under the current Byzantine system most of us find ourselves in is a lawyer, not a gun. Odd that the issue has fallen off the political radar screen.
My favorite factoid from today's paper is that Yasser Arafat has to ask Ariel Sharon personally for permission to leave Ramallah, grounded like a teen-ager. By the way, C-SPAN must be showing your book party again, in kind of an endless weekend loop, it seems. I got several more complaints from those who didn't get their invitations (anthrax ate them, I swear). As much as anyone (aside from the author), Brian Lamb should be thanked for getting Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think on the best-seller list. Will you have my book party?
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for Time magazine. She also appears on Inside Politics and Capital Gang.