A. The way I see it, every silver lining contains a new cloud. You just have to look for it. Maybe you noticed that right after the Iraqi elections, when most people were euphoric, half the reporters in New York and Washington started waving around a1967 news clipping, headlined "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote, Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror." It was all over the Internet, too. That was me. It was a two-fer--deflating optimism and comparing Iraq to Vietnam, always a trump card in my profession. I also got Teddy Kennedy to demand an exit strategy right on the eve of the voting. When optimism threatens to break out, I usually look for Ted.
Q. Good idea. I thought you did a nice job on the walk-up to the elections, about how the vote would be small and therefore illegitimate, the U.S. didn't have enough troops to guard the polls, mass violence would probably break out, and maybe we were headed for a theocracy or a civil war.
A. Thanks. Nobody works harder than us negativity professionals, though it's true that the actual voting turned out badly for us. The biggest blow was that the Arab press reported positively on the vote. As you know, previously the most recent positive reports in the Arab media were all in the eighth century. But we still had a big impact. I was particularly proud of one post-election newspaper report in New York, "Premature Jubilation as Iraqis Go to Polls." It complained that Shiites took voting instructions from their leaders, the Kurds had only one slate, and some association of Muslim scholars had declared the voting illegitimate. Everything that anybody could view as wrong was piled into one doom-and-gloom article. I loved it. Working to tamp down premature jubilation is what our profession is all about.
Q. Tell us about some of your other efforts in Iraq.