We find yet another chapter in the ongoing Jack Abramoff saga in this week’s Weekly Standard, where writer Mark Hemmingway writes about “My Dinner With Jack” — his account of a meal he shared with the disgraced lobbyist three years ago. “Unlike the hordes of politicians rushing to disavow their relationship with him, I have no problem saying I knew Abramoff,” Hemingway writes. “For three glorious hours, I was his captive private audience at his now-defunct restaurant, Signatures. And I can tell you, he is handsome, hugely entertaining, and even self-deprecating at times.”
But this is no love letter to the guy; rather, it’s a personal account of how Abramoff charmed him while pitching him to write a book about the 1989 action movie Red Scorpion Abramoff wrote and produced. The flick, which starred Dolph Lundgren (perhaps best-known for his role as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV) as a Soviet special ops officer “sent on a mission by his superiors to infiltrate rebel forces opposing the Soviet occupation of a fictional African country, clearly modeled after Angola.” Long story short, Lundgren’s character sees the evil of his Soviet ways, and ends up fighting against mother Russia. Abramoff had some audacious stories about filming in Africa, and wanted to get it down in a book. A few weeks later Abramoff dropped the idea — thus probably sparing Hemingway from having to make a grand jury appearance.
U.S. News & World Report checks in a little late with its “war vets are running for Congress as Democrats” story, which CJR Daily first picked up on over a month ago. Elsewhere in the magazine, U.S. News asks if President Bush’s plan to run the White House like a business is really paying dividends. “Despite the problems [of his second term], Bush is hanging tough,” reporter Kenneth T. Walsh writes, before quoting the just-departed White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card as saying “I have not seen a change in the president’s leadership style and the management tools he uses.” Card, along with “other Bush confidants” said that “the chief executive is applying the hands-off style he learned at Harvard Business School … and also the methods that worked for him as an oilman, as managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and, later, as governor of Texas.”
But that approach doesn’t seem to be working so well lately (not that it worked for him in his famous failures as an oil man), and as in so many second-term White Houses, even some of the president’s friends are turning on him. As one “a prominent Bush ally” said, “’[The administration] thinks raising money for Republican candidates is enough … Their attitude is, “Quit your bitching. We raised $1 million for you.” They won’t admit their mistakes or their problems.’ That kind of hubris rankles even Bush’s friends. But there was no course at Harvard Business School in how to make nice with Washington politicians, and no tradition in the Texas oilfields of swallowing one’s pride.”
Speaking of the “CEO administration,” over at the Pentagon Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has also tried to engineer a business revolution in the way the military operates, as The New Republic’s Clay Risen writes this week. Rummy’s new military would work more like Wal-Mart than a traditional military, modeling its logistics operations on companies who have “succeeded in large part because they leverage vast computer systems to lower inventories, respond better to consumer demand, and even predict where their respective markets are headed. In the same way, business-minded brass would restructure battle plans around a vast information and intelligence network, eschewing tanks and heavy artillery in favor of high-tech, lightly armed, nimble units that would flood the war zone and attack only those targets whose destruction would bring the enemy to heel, an enemy whose activity will be precisely monitored and analyzed electronically.”
One needs only read the excellent new book about Iraq, Cobra II, by New York Times military correspondent Michael Gordon and retired general Bernard Trainor to see how well that plan worked in its first rollout.
And now, for something completely different: Elle takes a long look at the work of essayist Caitlin Flanagan and her new book, Hell With All That, a collection of her previously published essays, which is “the Los Angeles-based Flanagan’s bid to go big-time, to break out of the rarefied confines of intellectual magazines and find fans among the much larger TV/newsmagazine/self-help audience and perhaps even among the likes of Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio.”
Flanagan has drawn fire from many women over the last couple of years for her essays for the The Atlantic and The New Yorker, in which she lauds stay-at-home moms and frets about child rearing in two-career households. Elle writer Laurie Abraham describes this at Flanagan’s “relentless antifeminist determinism,” as seen in her March 2004 Atlantic essay “How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement,” where she wrote the now-infamous line, “When a mother works, something is lost.”
Still, Abraham writes, “A therapist might suggest that Flanagan disowns the aspects of herself that don’t fit into her nostalgic picture of her mother, pre-fall, then projects the hated parts onto other women, simultaneously distorting herself and them. Why does she so strenuously romanticize her mother? For that matter, why does she come off as so terrified that her children might hate her? Even after she hired a nanny, she writes, she barely left the house, which she herself calls possibly pathological.’ ‘I had to be there not to share in the labor, but to exert my presence, to make sure my beloved sons were imbibing as much of me, their mother, as they were of her.’”