"Rational Discourse With an Ironic Wink"
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Jan. 31 2002 2:37 PM

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David,

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Ahhh, Winston. You remember my son, Theodore? His middle name is ... Winston! (My wife, a rabid Anglophile, wanted to reverse the order—I gave the standard, "You can't send a boy out onto the playground with a name like that" rejoinder and won, for once). But anyway, given my love of those two antique warbirds, why am I leaning toward dovery now? Well, I'm not, exactly. I'm leaning toward prudence. I'm leaning against the promulgation of overheated rhetoric that may not be backed by actions. Once again, both Iran and Iraq are building those weapons mostly to deter each other and Israel. They're not targeting us, unless you count Israel as us—which is a long and difficult conversation. And you are quite right: It is far better for Bush to be hectoring us on important stuff like this than socially dreadful pandering to senior citizens and a host of other non-issues. But correct hectoring would be nice.

What's the evidence, by the way, that Saddam isn't rational? We know he's not even vaguely moral, but it seems to me he's played his hand very carefully, if not always correctly. He didn't expect us to catch him on Kuwait or the wacky Bush 41 assassination attempt (or maybe he did expect the latter and predicted Clinton's lame pin-prick response). I'm all for getting rid of him, but I hope we'll take him out subtly, without tipping our hand and without braggadocio.

If only this foreign policy debate could be confined to the likes of you and me, I'm sure we'd find our natural, exhilarating common ground, coming from opposite directions. We are so wonderful, the two of us ... a model for what Washington should be about: rational discourse with an ironic wink. We are so fabulous, really. So darn grand. Well, on second thought, I don't know about me ... you're pretty good, though.

A pleasure,
Joe

Joe Klein is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton.

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