In Dick We Trust

We already know how Republicans will run against Hillary Clinton, because Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is busily banging that drum.

“Hillary Clinton is, quite frankly, someone the American people can’t trust,” he “>video proves why you can’t trust Hillary Clinton,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “We already know from recent polls that a majority of Americans do not believe she is honest or trustworthy,” he pointed out in “It’s a Matter of Trust,” an “>missing documents from her Arkansas law firm that mysteriously turned up in the White House family quarters, or the sniper fire she said she avoided at a Bosnian airport, an account that turned out to be “just a
Flip-flopping is a garden variety accusation of pandering, but in the context of this dishonesty narrative, a change in position has been reframed as a lie.

But this can boomerang. Consider Jeb Bush’s bungled answer to Megyn Kelly’s “>acknowledged that Dick Cheney was lying when he told us in 2003 that Saddam Hussein “has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Cheney and the neocons (who’ve now set up shop in Jeb Bush’s inner circle) told us there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but Morrell “>yellowcake and the uranium “>Frontline documentary), the factory for manufacturing the phony case for war was headquartered in the vice president’s office. Cheney, not W, is the real albatross around the neck of the Republican presidential field.

If untrustworthiness is the attack they themselves are most vulnerable to, why are the Republicans working so hard to sharpen that blade? “Projective identification” is the term psychoanalyst Melanie Klein used to describe how people can unconsciously split off a part of themselves and project it instead onto others. That might be what’s happening here. Reince Priebus looks at Hillary Clinton and sees a deceiver. Dude must not know he’s looking in the mirror.  

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Colin Powell

Listening to Colin Powell endorse Barack Obama, I had the same divided feelings I did last spring, when I heard him speak at my daughter’s high school graduation.

He had come because he knew the family of another senior in the class well enough to accept the invitation. An hour before the students processed in, he graciously posed for a photo with each of them. When he spoke, he was warm, witty and inspirational. The story of his rise — from the South Bronx to four-star general, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State — held a classic commencement moral: If a screw-up like me could make it, you privileged and accomplished kids will make it, too, and you’ll have a responsibility to give back to society.

Yet I couldn’t help recalling that this was the same Colin Powell whose United Nations speech five years earlier had convinced me that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. And not only me, but journalists and columnists and editorial writers around the country, many of whom I respected for their gimlet-eyed sobriety.

As assembled by former Des Moines Register editorial page editor “>investigations since his UN speech suggest that Secretary Powell misrepresented the intelligence he had and discounted “>Kamel had told both CIA analysts and UN inspectors in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles.

Bioweapons factories: Secretary Powell said, “We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails,” which could make enough anthrax or botulinus toxin “in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people.” What he didn’t say was that the “>CIA knew that the two corroborating accounts came from Iraqis who had never had direct contact with the biowarfare trucks and had not claimed to have seen them. Nor that CIA files contained information about another Iraqi defector, an engineer who had worked with Curveball, who specifically denied that they had worked on such facilities. Nor that the only American intelligence official ever to actually meet Curveball, when asked to vet this portion of the upcoming speech, warned his CIA boss that Curveball might not know what he was talking about.

Nuclear weapons: Secretary Powell said “most United States experts” believe aluminum tubes sought by Iraq were intended for use as centrifuge cylinders for enriching uranium for nuclear bombs. “Most?” In 2001, the “>experts had specifically warned him not to say that the tubes were manufactured to a tolerance ”that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets,” but say it he did.

WMD concealment: Secretary Powell played a recording of an intercepted conversation, in Arabic, between two Iraqi military officers. The English translation he showed on a slide said this: “Clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas… Make sure there is nothing there.” Yet this is the “>pressure from Vice President Cheney and his enforcer, “Scooter” Libby, Powell succeeded in purging the speech of dozens of canards. But the speech he delivered is the same speech that, on the eve of his UN appearance, he

Butt flag fever, Orthodox crawl, what to expect, propaganda

Flag Skirts

I was very interested in the subject matter of the young people of the United States going to Israel on the Birthright program (Cover, July 18).

However, am I the only paranoid Jew who found it offensive? Since when is it appropriate to drape a flag (from any country) around one’s rear end? These students perhaps do not know the proper procedure in displaying a flag, but surely the editors of your fine publication would know.

Sally Michaels
Woodland Hills

Defending Identity

Coming from an Orthodox background, only recently did I start reading the Jewish Journal (it’s delivered to the Russian Chabad of all places). I really enjoy the multitude of opinions expressed here — especially Rob Eshman’s editorials — until I read “Defending Identity” riding to work this morning (“Defending Identity,” July 18).

A single written word can be a very powerful tool in educating and liberating, but it can do quite the opposite as well. A single reference to God in the feminine form “Her” was a major blow to my opening up to the Jewish non-Orthodox ideas. In the same sentence: not only it’s “Her,” but she also has a “dark sense of humor.”

Come on, Mr. Eshman, that’s too much! Whose identity are you defending?

Offending mine — that’s for sure! Now I want to crawl back to my shell, where I feel safe and where I can be unapologetically Orthodox.

Marat Kirgiz
Los Angeles

Best of L.A.

One of the finest synagogue bands in our area is Beth Shir Sholom’s TishTones. They were not mentioned in your otherwise excellent feature on the best in (Jewish) Los Angeles (July 4).

The TishTones were created more than 18 years ago by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, and were one of the first synagogue bands. While longevity is not proof of “best,” I invite anyone interested to Beth Shir Sholom’s Shabbos Tish at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, where the TishTones will be featured. Everyone is also invited to the 6 p.m. barbecue preceding the Tish (reservations appreciated).

Participants can then decide for themselves.

Brenda Barrie
Executive Director
Beth Shir Sholom
Santa Monica

What to Expect

Yes, a woman needs to listen to her body (“What to Expect When You’re Done Expecting,” July 11).

For some, it means having that one child, for others more children. There comes a time when the body says “enough is enough.”

It’s painful for women [who] due to nature’s quirks can’t have children. It’s one of the most beautiful things a woman can do: give life.

Giving birth does have its risks. I know — my mother died the day after I was born.

Elizabeth Kruger
Los Angeles

Ich bin ein Amerikaner

It is absolutely shocking that a Jew would write an article such as “Ich bin ein Amerikaner” (July 25).

Anyone acquainted with Jewish history should be painfully aware that if a person, people or state are loathed, it very well may be caused by unfair or even vicious propaganda. Those on the left, who blame Bush for the hatred of America, never consider that their venom is the primary reason for this hatred.

This of course includes obscene analogies (Hitler), absurd conspiracy theories (Sept. 11) and a constant stream of accusations that he is a liar (two bipartisan commissions concluded that he did not lie about WMDs). Amazingly, Kaplan praises American films, which the world loves. American films since Sept. 11 almost always demonize the United States or Israel.

While I would concede that Bush is a terrible communicator and disagree with many of his policies, we have to ask what would have happened if Roosevelt or Churchill were accorded the same treatment as Bush and the wrongs of Hitler were treated as a force of nature? What would have happened if all of the films produced during World War II dramatized wrongs committed by the United States or Britain?

We all understand the unfairness of absurdly disproportionate criticism of an ethnic group or race, but is it not equally unjust when this is done to a country such as Israel or the United States?

Ronnie Lampert
Los Angeles

Beyond Sicko

The headline over the column of Marty Kaplan, “Beyond Sicko” (July 18), was a perfect description of his opening paragraph (although I know that was not the intent of the headline writer), which takes a totally irrelevant swipe at Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kaplan made no direct connection between Cheney and the subject of his column.

For the obvious reason that he does not care for Cheney (Kaplan is the director of the leftist Norman Lear Center) he did an amazing stretch in his segue to justify his attack by the fact that the subject of his column (a conference on the health of people in the United States) was being held “a short taxi ride from the White House.”

Poor Kaplan, he even fell short in his queer segue. Cheney is not in the White House. Sicko.

Leon Perlsweig
Woodland Hills

Getting Serious

It will come as a revelation to Rachel Heller that intimacy, in long term relationships, can, and has been achieved, without ever sharing all the sounds each others’ bodies can make (“Getting ‘Serious’ Is No Joke,” July 11).

As it is, how shallow a measure that is anyway. I will no longer laugh at those self-help relationship books that flood the market; seems there must be a need for them.

Judith O. Kollman
Sherman Oaks


In the June 5, 2008 article, "Shoah Survivors Graduate from New Jew," the phrase "Polish concentration camps" was incorrectly used. The correct phrase should have been "concentration camps in Poland."

Ich bin ein Amerikaner

“The world is waiting to love America again” ran the title of a recent London Observer editorial anticipating Barack Obama’s visit to Europe.

Love may be too strong a word to describe the world’s feelings for America when George W. Bush was first sworn in as president, but not by much. It’s surprising, but irrefutable, to look back at the numbers he inherited. Polls taken in 1999 and 2000 show impressive majorities of people in nations all around the world holding favorable views of the U.S. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, when headlines declared “We Are All Americans” in many languages, those numbers went even higher.

But today, love is not much in the air. As the Pew Global Attitudes Project put it, “Since 2002 … the image of the United States has declined in most parts of the world. Favorable ratings of America are lower in 26 of 33 countries for which trends are available.”

Some examples: In Germany, our favorability has fallen from 78 percent, when Bush was inaugurated, to 30 percent in 2007; in Britain, from 83 to 51; in Slovakia, from 74 to 41; in Argentina, from 50 to 16; in Turkey, from 52 to 9; in Indonesia, from 75 to 29.

The Bush/Cheney doctrine, of course, was never about being loved. Instead, they said they wanted America to be respected, which turned out to be code for being feared. No one disputes that national security depends on strength, which includes military and economic strength. But it also depends on ideals, and it’s in that department — the values implicit in our actions — where the White House has lost the world’s respect and actually undermined America’s power.

Everyone knows the list of horribles: Unilateralism. Name-calling. Cowboy diplomacy. Pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. Declaring the Geneva Conventions irrelevant. Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. Branding negotiation as “appeasement.” Preaching a “freedom agenda” while undermining domestic civil liberties. Supporting authoritarian regimes in the name of spreading democracy.

It goes on. And it has had an effect diametrically opposite to its intention. “Ironically,” the Pew project says, “the belief that the United States does not take into account the interests of other countries in formulating its foreign policy is extensive among the publics of several close U.S. allies. No fewer than 89 percent of the French, 83 percent of Canadians and 74 percent of the British express this opinion.”

For years, the Bush State Department has pursued numerous misbegotten and unsuccessful efforts at “public diplomacy,” based on the premise that what America has is a communications problem, that we need a more effective marketing campaign for our national brand. In fact, what we have actually had is a problem problem — a policy problem, an actions problem, a contempt for differing points of view, an arrogance about human rights, a penchant for demonization.

Yes, there are evil people and bad states in the world, and they want to do grievous harm to us and our allies. But there is scant evidence that the approach of the past seven years has effectively contained or defanged them. In fact, the Bush State Department seems finally to have recognized this. In its dealings with Syria and Iran, there is a belated, twilight recognition that talk is not the same thing as capitulation. The agreement at the G-8 summit in Japan to halve greenhouse gases by 2050 — 2050! — may be pathetic, but at least it is less pathetic than denying their human causes and their lethal consequences.

There is a good reason that entertainment is America’s No. 1 export, even at this nadir of our international reputation. The stories that Hollywood’s products tell, the values they embody, are hopeful, idealistic, celebratory of human potential and achievement. Yes, some nihilistic stuff is American-made and globally consumed, too. But by and large, people around the world like our entertainment for the same reason that we do: It comes down on the side of dignity, freedom and good triumphing over evil. That’s what America can mean to the world, and in some quarters — despite the bullying and blundering of the Bush years — still does mean.

When John F. Kennedy in 1963 told the world from the Brandenburg Gate, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” he was explicitly identifying with all people whose freedom was threatened. But there was an implicit message in his words as well: Here is what it means to be an American. Here is what the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution look like.

As The Observer observed, the world is waiting to love America again. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have a tremendous opportunity to change the face, and to change the meaning, of what “I am an American” has come to signify around the world. For the sake of our national security, and that of our allies, it can’t come a moment too soon.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. His column appears here weekly. He can be reached at