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Friday, November 18, 2005

NJ-Sen: Kean (R) Sees Democratic Gains in... SYRIA?

Posted by DavidNYC

I am seldom in the business of giving Republican politicians the benefit of the doubt. But two things are giving me a little pause when examining this alleged remark by NJ senate hopeful Tom Kean, Jr.:

Kean said he sees democratic gains in Syria and Lebanon as evidence of the United States’ ability to help foster freedom in the region. (Emphasis added.)

The first, of course, is that it's not a direct quote. The second, though, is that it is so mind-bogglingly... man, "wrong" doesn't even come close to describing this remark. Insane, is more like it? Democratic gains in SYRIA? Is he KIDDING?

Does Tom Kean mean this Syria? Or perhaps this Syria? Maybe he means this Syria:

Officially, Syria is a republic. In reality, however, it is an authoritarian regime that exhibits only the forms of a democratic system. Although citizens ostensibly vote for the President and members of Parliament, they do not have the right to change their government. The late President Hafiz Al-Asad was confirmed by unopposed referenda five times. His son, Bashar Al-Asad, also was confirmed by an unopposed referendum in July 2000. (Emphasis added.)

No, I've got it. He's referring to this episode in recent Syrian history:

The Damascus Spring was a period of intense political and social debate in Syria which started after the death of President Hafiz al-Asad in June 2000 and continued to some degree until autumn 2001, when most of the activities associated with it were suppressed by the government. (Emphasis added.)

Maybe he's talking about the Syria where stories like this - from earlier this month are the norm:

It was early in the morning as Anwar al-Bouni drove to the court in Damascus where he works as a human rights lawyer. He had just spent 10 days in hiding, afraid that the regime was trying to frame him in a criminal case to silence his outspoken views. He barely noticed the two motorbikes next to him.

When he slowed to make a turn, the second bike pulled up and the pillion passenger kicked at Bouni's door. He stopped the car. "What happened? What's the matter?" he said. The man jumped off the bike, opened the door and began punching and kicking Bouni.

"He didn't say anything. He just beat me on my head, my nose, my mouth. He hit me, he kicked me and then when people started to gather around us, he got on the bike and drove off," said Bouni, sitting in his apartment chain smoking, and sipping black coffee. He was bruised and badly shaken, but escaped serious injury.

The incident was a crude reminder of the perils of criticism in Syria's closed society. During decades of dictatorship all opposition movements have been firmly repressed. There are few who dare to publicly condemn the regime. Bouni is one of them and now he is too scared to go back to work. Others have been forced into exile or sent to jail.

Maybe the Hunterdon Review got it wrong. Maybe Kean said Lebanon but not Syria. He's gonna wanna issue a clarification either way. But if he did mean Syria, then not only is he crazy, but he's also off the reservation - just this week, Condi Rice was smacking Syria upside the head for its recalcitrance on democratic reform.

This remark is on par with Gerald Ford saying "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" in his second debate with Jimmy Carter in 1976. I'll be curious to see how the Kean camp handles it. They can blame it on the reporters, but even so, it still counts as a serious verbal screwup.

Posted at 02:22 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, New Jersey | Technorati

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Maybe some missionary told him Syrians were turning to Jesus.

Posted by: DaveW [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 04:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

He has the causality totally reversed.

Assad the younger is certainly considerably less opressive than Assad the elder. And this, combined with the Israeli withdrawal of Lebanon (both before the "liberation" of Iraq), helped pave the way for the "Lebanese spring."

Posted by: Ramo [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 09:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Settle down folks. Tom Kean was not quoted accurately. The Hunterdon Review, the paper that first published the quote, has just issued a correction....the paper got it wrong.

Posted by: atticus [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 04:18 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Where is this correction available?

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment