Jewish World Review August 1, 2001/ 12 Menachem-Av 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

There's something up this diplomatic sleeve -- COLIN POWELL'S got something up his sleeve. Critics who think he's terminally naive, too quick to suffer thugs, a man who never met an adversary, ought to give the man a chance.

Some of us, who aren't so quick to jump to conclusions, are waiting with gleeful anticipation for the secretary of state to spring the trap on his tormentors, beginning with his "friends" in Beijing who pulled a silk rug from under him yesterday. He's an old soldier, after all. You can't fool an old soldier. Old soldiers are tough as boots (and saddles).

Mr. Powell spent a month in Beijing last week, making nice at the expense of his own reputation with tributes surely tongue-in-cheek to China's decency toward its own citizens. There was no kidnapping of 5-year-olds or sham trials of the parents while the secretary was there, and the government even refrained from collecting hostages for release later as demonstrations of good will. But no sooner had he got to Australia on the next leg of his trip than his erstwhile hosts sent him a not-so-coded rude message: "Up yours." That's certainly no way to treat a secretary of state's nose.

His hosts had allowed him to be interviewed for television, which State Department flacks, delicate and gullible as always, called "a positive step to inform the Chinese people." The interview was to be broadcast later. When they finally put it on the air, some of the secretary's human rights stuff, as bracing as the cucumber soup at Miss Ida's Tea Room, had been deleted.

The secretary had called on the Chinese people to "continue to move forward with respect to the treatment of people with different religious beliefs, or different ways of practicing their faith. We don't want to point the finger at China and say you must do it our way." But -- and this is the stuff so tough the Chinese couldn't take it, and wouldn't broadcast it -- "we think there are international standards that would benefit China to adhere to." No wonder Jiang Zemin called for the smelling salts.

All that was left for Mr. Powell's department to do was to make the usual lame protest. "We have strongly protested that deletion in Beijing and will do so today in Washington," a department spokesman said.

The state-owned Chinese television enterprise had agreed to broadcast the interview without censorship, just like the grown-ups in Taipei might do. "So the decision not to broadcast the full message that the secretary taped was counterproductive." Gee, a surprise.

Mr. Powell met Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld yesterday in Australia, and the meeting couldn't have been more deliciously timed, since Washington is buzzing with gossip about a feud the two are supposed to be having over whether to lie down with or stand up to the Chinese, who lately have had remarkable success with a strategy of alternating outrage and restraint, which seems to have dazzled some if not all the folks at the White House.

Mr. Rumsfeld, in widely noted remarks made in an interview with The Washington Times on July 24, displayed his skepticism of Chinese intentions. "Ask yourself how compatible [economic outreach to China] is with a dictatorial, rigid political system that lacks the political freedoms that many, if not most, successful economies enjoy," he said. " I happen to be in the camp that suggests that's an awfully tough thing to do."

Five days later in Beijing, Mr. Powell spoke out from a campfire of embers, not flames: "We are reaching out and building on areas of common interest, and where we have disagreements, not shrinking from those disagreements, not saying they don't exist, but facing them and talking about them and trying to solve them."

Yesterday, in a conversation with reporters in Canberra, both men said what they were expected to say, but the remarks lent themselves to the kind of analysis Washington loves.

"There is no real space between us, as suggested," Mr. Powell said. Mr. Rumsfeld brushed aside a similar question about their differences over how to deal with China: "Are you trying to find some daylight between Colin and me?" His grin said a lot. Pressed further by a reporter to say whether he disagreed with Mr. Powell's mild assessment of North Korean intentions, Mr. Rumsfeld said that he agreed with Mr. Powell on all issues "except for those few cases where Colin is still learning." Just kidding, no doubt.

Secretaries of state and defense often disagree; the Pentagon's job, after all, is to defend the nation's interests and the job of the men of Foggy Bottom is to give those interests away. But just not this time. The old soldier, who learned a long time ago to recognize deception and diversion, is gonna fix their wagon. We can't wait.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

Wesley Pruden Archives

© 2001 Wes Pruden