Bloggers attack Sen. Carl Levin over Iraq.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Aug. 21 2007 6:29 PM

Carl's in Charge?

Bloggers are responding to Democratic Sen. Carl M. Levin's call for the ouster of Iraq's prime minister, as well as Michael Vick's guilty plea and the death of Leona Helmsley.

Carl's in Charge? After a trip to Iraq, Sen. Carl Levin, head of the armed services committee, is calling on Iraqis to replace the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki if he can't ease sectarian tensions within his Cabinet. Bloggers are incredulous.

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Republican blogger John Kranz at ThreeSources objects: "Pity the poor Iraqis. They are going to learn about democracy from the likes of Senator Carl Levin. One can question the competence or efficiency of PM Nouri al-Malaki, but he is the first freely elected Prime Minister under the new self-directed Constitution on a free Iraq." Jeff Hess at Have Coffee Will Write takes the same line: "[T]he senator seems to have forgotten that Iraq is a sovereign nation with a democratically elected government put in place by elections that the United States sanctioned. ... We do not get to take a do-over just because we don't like the result."

"Even if he's right, he's wrong," adds conservative lawyer William Dyer at BeldarBlog. "Even if this is good advice, it's incredibly, unequivocally, unarguably bad for a United States senator, even the chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee—especially the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee—to start acting in this way as a free agent, an unguided missile, in sensitive matters of foreign policy."

What's this anti-Maliki business about, anyway? Nur-al-Cublicle, a blog devoted to Iraq written by a Florida IT specialist, notes that Maliki is enraging the United States by posing for photo-ops with Syrians and Iranians. But others suggest Levin is playing politics. At Early Warning, the Washington Post's William M. Arkin calls the anti-Maliki line "a classic Washington two-step that allows everyone to complain because it involves no criticism of the American soldier." That is, it means Levin can praise the surge effort—thus "supporting" the troops—while still calling Iraq a disaster, satisfying his anti-war base. Captain's Quarters' conservativeEd Morrissey elaborates: "The last time the National Assembly had to form a government, it took five months to complete. During that time, Democrats demanded a withdrawal, complaining that the democratic process in Iraq had failed. Toppling Maliki would mean doing that all over again, which would give Democrats the same argument they used the last time if the replacement process took more than a few weeks."

Michael van der Galien at the Moderate Voice reads things a little differently: "Levin believes that the military strategy is paying off in some regards, but it will not be enough. Obviously Levin is right. The US can do whatever it wants to do, but as long as al-Maliki refuses to bring his country together, no real and lasting progress can be made."

Maliki still enjoys White House support, prompting Wonkette to quip: "[I]t's a bad week to be Nouri al-Maliki, but … once the Senate wants you dead, Dick Cheney will probably do everything in his power to keep you alive."

Read more bloggers on Sen. Levin and Prime Minister Maliki.

Game over: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will plead guilty to federal dogfighting charges. He is expected to serve at least a year in prison, and the NFL is deciding on its response.

Sports fans are relieved that this story will soon fade away. Deadspin explains how the scandal got so big in the first place: "We knew Vick was in deep trouble when he became a story that people who don't care about sports started to care about. It's the Nancy Grace Rule: Once a sports story crosses over to the cable gabfests, it's not about sports anymore, and it has nothing to do with Vick, or the Falcons, or the NFL (or, to use another example, Duke University)."

DmtShooter at Five Tool Tool lists those who lose the most with the guilty plea. Dog blogger Luisa at Lassie, Get Help offers a news roundup. The Smoking Gun has Vick's indictment, and YouTube has his top 10 plays.

Read more bloggers on Michael Vick.

RIP Leona Helmsley: The notoriously unpleasant hotel magnate and billionaire tax-evader died Monday at her Connecticut estate. Bloggers are dancing on her grave.

The most vitriolic attacks come from those incensed by her record of homophobia. Bravo TV exec Andrew Cohen writes at Andy's Blog: "I was going to write in defense of Leona Helmsley this morning. I was going to say that she was just a misunderstood greedy old lady who said a bunch of stupid stuff … Then I read the papers. It turns out that it's fairly unanimous that the lady was, in fact, a miserable bitch. I can't defend her." Tristan at JadedCity concludes an extremely coarse posting: "Good riddance I say, may you forever burn in hell."

But does it matter what people think of her? Two executive coaches disagree: David V. Lorenzo says she blew it: "Sure she was rich. Sure she gave a lot of money to charity. But in the end, her personal brand was that of a spiteful, arrogant, nasty woman—whose own employees turned her in to the government for tax evasion. …  How you make your money is as important as the amount of money you make." But David Sandusky at Your Individual Brand argues that she didn't deserve her rep: "[S]he is portrayed as being mean and was I am sure … But to be branded as mean as she created jobs and community opportunity and worth mentioning again, a true philanthropist. How mean, right? The brand, that brand, will not sell in theaters and not worthy of print in the media."

Read more bloggers on Leona Helmsley's death.

Blake Wilson is a Slate contributor and former Slate editor.

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