Michael Chertoff, Euroweenie

by Henry Farrell on July 24, 2008

Kevin Drum “links to”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_07/014163.php an unusually stupid (by which I mean ‘unusually stupid, even by the standards of the Corner’) post by Byron York on Obama’s Berlin speech.

It’s a small passage from Obama’s Berlin speech, but this formulation, common in some circles, grates on some ears, like mine:

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

Yes, the victims were from all over the globe — places like Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and Manhattan, and Queens, and Staten Island, and New Jersey — all over. And most were Americans, weren’t they?

I knew when I read this that I’d seen the same sentiment expressed in a speech by Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. And indeed, Google confirms that “it is so”:http://useu.usmission.gov/Dossiers/Data_Privacy/May1407_Chertoff_EP.asp.

Homeland Security’s Chertoff Addresses European Parliament Committee on Data Transfer, Privacy May 14, 2007

…Today’s terrorists fund their operations internationally. They recruit members, they train, they plan and they carry out attacks by exploiting the gaps in the seams in our international systems. The attack of September 11th was a clear illustration of this. The plot was hatched in Central Asia, the recruits came from Saudi Arabia, the training occurred in Afghanistan, the planning occurred here in Europe, and the attack culminated, of course, in the United States with citizens from many countries including many countries represented here lost in the World Trade Center.

I’m eagerly looking forward to Byron’s follow-up post on the dubious sentiments common among ‘some circles’ of senior Bush officials, Chertoff’s shameful failure to mention that most of those killed were American, und (to use the mots justes) so weiter. Byron?



Walt 07.24.08 at 7:41 pm

I’m a little disappointed in you, Henry. “Stupid even by the standards of the Corner” is such an incredibly high bar, that I’m eager to see it surpassed. This is merely “as stupid as a typical Corner post.”


Henry (not the famous one) 07.24.08 at 8:03 pm

The commenters back at Political Animal have unearthed some similar quotations from the State Department website and President Bush (the current one). A conspiracy so vast . . . .


P O'Neill 07.24.08 at 8:03 pm

Why does Byron York hate Connecticut?


nick s 07.24.08 at 8:37 pm

Maintaining that bouffant saps all the energy from his head.


Grand Moff Texan 07.24.08 at 9:00 pm

It’s a level of tedious stupidity matched by the Republican candidate himself:

In his interview with NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, which will air on NBC’s Nightly News tonight, McCain questions whether Obama should have given a speech in Berlin before becoming president.

“I would rather speak at a rally or a political gathering any place outside of the country after I am president of the United States,” McCain told O’Donnell. “But that’s a judgment that Sen. Obama and the American people will make.”

However, on June 20, McCain himself gave a speech in Canada — to the Economic Club of Canada — in which he applauded NAFTA’s successes. An implicit message behind that speech was that Obama had been critical of the trade accord. Also, McCain’s trip to Canada was paid for by the campaign.

Here is McCain in Canada in June.

Here is McCain in Colombia this month.

So, let’s review, shall we? John McCain challenges Obama to go abroad. John McCain then says he wouldn’t give speeches while abroad after giving speeches while abroad.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John McCain: lying sack of shit.


Michael Bérubé 07.24.08 at 9:05 pm

Yep, they’re really in their last throes over there at Die Ecke. Word is they’re trying to get Mukasey to charge Obama with violating the Logan Act upon his return to the U.S. The Logan Act, as you people from Othercountriestan may not know, forbids U.S. citizens from hitting three-point shots in foreign countries.


Thomas 07.24.08 at 9:31 pm

The sentiments aren’t obviously the same, just as speaking to the Economic Club of Toronto isn’t obviously the same as a public rally. The Obama phrasing is odd, since is suggests that the “thousands” came from outside the US, when, as York points out, only a relative handful did. The Chertoff phrasing doesn’t suggest that; it says only that the attack “culminated in” the US and that “citizens from many countries” were lost.


Grand Moff Texan 07.24.08 at 9:39 pm

The Obama phrasing is odd, since is suggests that the “thousands” came from outside the US …



before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil

You do realize that the US is still on planet earth, don’t you?


Gus 07.24.08 at 9:42 pm

No, what they’ll do is accuse Obama of plagiarism.


Walt 07.24.08 at 9:58 pm

Thomas, with that level of pablum, you might as well sign your comments, “why yes, I do get a check for writing these,” as if it wasn’t obvious enough already.


Michael Bérubé 07.24.08 at 10:18 pm

The sentiments aren’t obviously the same, just as speaking to the Economic Club of Toronto isn’t obviously the same as a public rally.

And, more to the point, McCain didn’t allow a foreign country to print liberal-fascist posters of him in Germanian.


Thomas 07.24.08 at 10:25 pm

My neighborhood is very cosmopolitican. My neighbors are from all over the world. There’s the great family around the corner with the Mrs. from Italy. And everyone else, they’re locals.

These tomatoes are from all over the world. Some are homegrown, and the rest come from a farm near Lexington.

The art house around the corner is showing movies from all over the world. There’s Roman de gare along with the usual middle-brow Hollywood stuff.


sg 07.24.08 at 10:29 pm

Michael Berube, is the Logan act the reason why Americans are bad at cricket?


"Q" the Enchanter 07.24.08 at 10:53 pm

It definitely would have been a much better speech had more words been used so that dead Americans could more clearly have been distinguished from dead non-Americans (of which there were only 236 — obviously, an insignificant number). After all, if you just lump them all together as “thousands from all over the world,” it’s just bound to engender more fellow feeling with and good will toward Americans. And that’s got to stop.


Thomas 07.25.08 at 12:35 am

Q, it may be rhetorically effective in some respects and not in others–your point is just the converse of York’s. You shouldn’t be surprised if the rhetorical inflation of the non-American loss is taken as a deflation of the American loss.


joseph duemer 07.25.08 at 1:14 am

Via TPMreader MA:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. [John Kennedy, Inaugural Address]


"Q" the Enchanter 07.25.08 at 1:51 am

Thomas, my point isn’t the “converse” of York’s — I reject York’s premises altogether.

See, in cooperative communication, certain background knowledge is often assumed. Which is why in this speech, for example, President Bush spends a whole paragraph enumerating the deaths of hundreds of Pakistanis, Israelis, Indians, El Salvadorians, Iranians, Mexicans, Japanese and British, without ever making explicit the fact that while hundreds of foreigners died, the attacks claimed thousands of Americans.

So, no, I wouldn’t call it “rhetorical inflation.” I’d call it “assuming your audience isn’t filled with ignorant jackasses.” (Though I’d admit that’s a dicey maneuver when the denizens of National Review are watching.)


Shelby 07.25.08 at 5:08 am

I think Americans are bad at cricket because the limits of their tolerance for arcane, pointless, tedious sports extend only to baseball. Although the Logan Act may contribute.


Dave 07.25.08 at 8:02 am

@18: Oh, I dunno, you guys can make 60 minutes of football last almost as long as some cricket-matches…

Besides, what’s arcane about cricket? The guys with the bats have to stop the guys with the ball knocking over the little wooden things. When they do that by hitting the ball far enough away, they get to run up and down and score. If the little wooden thing gets knocked over, a new bat-guy has to come on, until they run out of guys. Jeeze, it ain’t rocket-science. Australians can play it, quite well.


Ray 07.25.08 at 9:28 am

So, one team keeps hitting the ball until they run out of bat-guys, then the other team has a go until they run out of bat-guys, and the team that ran up and down the most wins?


Katherine 07.25.08 at 9:41 am


ajay 07.25.08 at 11:32 am

Ray: pretty much. Like any other game, cricket is at root fairly simple, bu the specialised terms used by players can make it confusing for the outsider. With that in mind, here’s a simple glossary.

The man with the bat is known (logically enough) as the batman. The opposing (non-batting) team are the visitors, or, in college games, the varsity. One of them will throw (or lob) the ball (or bail) in the direction of the batman standing at the opposite end of the playing area – the pitch or green. Six lobs make up a furlong after which the entire visiting side must walk slowly into the middle of the green, shake hands and then return to their places.

If the bail goes wide of the little wooden things ( three vertical sticks stuck in the ground, called innings, supporting two smaller wooden bars, or boycotts; collectively, this rectangular assembly is known as a cricket box) it is called a “wide”; if it goes straight over the top of the wooden things it is called an “over”. The lobber is, of course, aiming to hit the batman’s cricket box.
The batman scores points by hitting the bail and then running the length of the pitch – each time he manages to do so he scores one point, or try. If he hits the bail at all on the sixth lob of the furlong it is known as a six and scores six points.

Play is suspended in the event of rain or tea. As one or both of these exists at almost every point during an English summer, matches can often last for days. The current dominance of the game by Commonwealth sides is due to their long periods of dry weather, which allows them far more time to practice.
Because the state of the ground is extremely important in cricket – damp or waterlogged soil will change the way the bail bounces and can also exacerbate a painful fungal disease known to cricketers as sticky wicket – the first match of the season at a particular venue after the winter is known as a Test Match and, due to the handicap of uncertain ground condition, points scored count double for the rest of the season.
Please let me know if you have any more questions.


franck 07.25.08 at 12:01 pm

Cricket is gaining in popularity in the US, but from a miniscule base, and it is largely driven by South Asian and Caribbean immigrants. The US will never be a cricketing power, but if Ireland can beat Pakistan, maybe someday we will too.


Dave 07.25.08 at 12:37 pm

@20: kinda, ‘cept they do it all twice [in *proper* cricket], and it takes five days…………


Grand Moff Texan 07.25.08 at 1:37 pm

You shouldn’t be surprised if the rhetorical inflation of the non-American loss is taken as a deflation of the American loss.?

Certainly, I am no longer surprised when idiots make stuff up so that they have something to bitch about.


Dave 07.25.08 at 2:16 pm

For the benefit of those tragically unfortunate enough to have concluded their role as colonies of Britain before the codification of the rules of cricket in the noineteenth century, I feel I must point out that #22 is having you on…


ajay 07.25.08 at 2:54 pm

26: quiet, you fool! I was about to recommend they try out the magnificent echo in the British Museum Reading Room…


Dave 07.25.08 at 2:56 pm

Into which, of course, any chattering crowd can now walk, it being more of an exhibition space these days. Next you’ll be trying the old one about cabbies changing foreign currency [never south of the river, though].


Ricky 07.25.08 at 3:44 pm

York should be faulted simply for being incomplete.

York: Yes, the victims were from all over the globe — places like Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and Manhattan, and Queens, and Staten Island, and New Jersey — all over. And most were Americans, weren’t they? I HAVE NEVER SEEN PEOPLE ENJOYING THEIR HUSBAND’S DEATHS SO MUCH.”

Hats off to AnnCoulter for fixing that for Mr. York.


Ezra 07.26.08 at 12:11 am

“Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own: dozens of Pakistanis; more than 130 Israelis; more than 250 citizens of India; men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan; and hundreds of British citizens. America has no truer friend than Great Britain.” President Bush, 9/20/2001.

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