Rich Galen

Statecraft: From the Merriam-Webster Unabridged:

1: The art of conducting state affairs; State management; Statesmanship

2: archaic : wiliness or chicanery in political dealings

Astronomers cannot see planets rotating around distant stars. They know the planets are there because of the gravitational effects the planets have on the stars which the can see.

Similarly, sometimes in politics we have to tease out the truth, not by direct observation, but by, in essence, the gravitational effects.

For instance, the day after Joe Lieberman lost the primary for the nomination for US Senate in Connecticut, every major Democratic figure in the nation endorsed the winner, Ned Lamont.

The gravitational effect that political professionals observed was that NO major Democratic figure called on Lieberman to get out of the race, meaning he (a) was expected to win the general election and (b) would be welcomed back into the Senate club after he did.

See how this works?

Now, lets shift forward to last week when the President was in Amman, Jordan and was supposed to have a dinner meeting with King Abdallah of Jordan and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki.

The person who holds the balance of power in Iraq is an anti-American thug named Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr controls Iraq's largest Shiite militia and scares the hell out of the national government.

Al-Sadr announced dire consequences if Maliki met with President Bush so everyone was in a bind.

Here's how they unbound themselves:

Stephen Hadley is the President's National Security Advisor - a role he inherited after his predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, became Secretary of State. Hadley went to Iraq to see what was what.

What was what was reduced to writing and sent along to the President in the form of a confidential memo.

With me so far?

That memo, which was not terribly complimentary of Maliki's leadership, was leaked to the New York Times which had the audacity to publish it day before the scheduled dinner was to be held in Amman.

Maliki's people have access to the NY Times and read the memo which, among other things said he is "either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

Whoa! Not exactly a "Maliki, yer doin' a great job" endorsement from the National Security Advisor.

Maliki suddenly decided he was way, WAY too busy to attend a meeting with the President of the United States and the head of state of his next-door-neighbor and cancelled.

The cancellation was dutifully reported as Maliki "snubbing" the President.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at