On the Plane

The Royal Touch

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 15--One of the more surreal scenes of the eight-day presidential trip to the Middle East may have taken place this evening at the lavish Al Janadriyah Ranch, the so-called "horse farm" where Saudi King Abdullah entertains his most favored guests and raises Arabian stallions.

When the president arrived for dinner, a little before 7 p.m. local time, he was wearing a black full-length robe with bluish-silver trim and seeming eminently pleased, as Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times described it in his pool report last night. Later, when he sat down with the king and took off the robe, it became clear that it was lined with fur.

When his aides showed up, they too were wearing similar robes. The contingent included White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, Counselor Ed Gillespie, Press Secretary Dana Perino and--most curiously perhaps--National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams, better known in Washington as possibly Israel's staunchest supporter inside the White House.

When asked by Newsweek reporter Michael Hirsh, Elliott of Arabia said he was allowed to keep the robe, suggesting these were gifts for all.

Perhaps Bush is right that the time is ripe for Middle East peace.

-- Michael Abramowitz

By washingtonpost.com Editors |  January 15, 2008; 6:35 PM ET  | Trip:  Bush in Middle East, Jan. 2008
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Abrams, isn't he that Iran-Contra criminal?

The White House says Abrams will be in charge of "global Florida-style democracy strategy," effectively making him Bush's antidemocracy czar.

As Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh prepared to bring a multicount felony indictment against him in 1987, Abrams pleaded guilty to misleading Congress, a misdemeanor crime. Many Democrats also revile him as the lead apologist for brutal Central American dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s. He's "the guy who lied and wheedled to aid and protect human rights abusers," The Nation's David Corn wrote upon Abrams' 2001 return to crime.

Surely the White House grasps the ironies here: A man accused of subverting the Constitution is leading its charge for democratic government; a reputed defender of dictators is working to depose them. In this sense, Abrams embodies Bush's foreign policy as a whole. The goals seem noble to the uneducated--but are the methods sound?

Abrams undercut his credibility by stubbornly defending the U.S.-backed military regime in El Salvador even after evidence emerged of regime-sponsored massacres. This made him a villain among liberals like New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who accused him of whitewashing human rights abuses. A famously tough political operator, Abrams gave as good as he got. "I would like to take a machine gun and mow Anthony Lewis down," his wife once told the Washington Post. "I wouldn't waste the bullets," Abrams rejoined. "I would rather have them go to the contras."

Abrams traveled to London in 1986 armed with a Swiss bank account number and the code name "Mr. Kenilworth." He met in Hyde Park with an agent of the Sultan of Brunei and solicited a $10 million donation for the contras. When the Iran-Contra investigation revealed his role, Abrams took a beating and then hung on for the duration of Reagan's presidency. He wasn't invited to join the new team when George H. W. Bush took office in 1989, however, though Bush later granted him a Christmas Eve pardon to clear his legal record.

In Iran-Contra members of the executive branch sold weapons to Iran, an avowed enemy, and illegally used the proceeds to continue funding terrorists, the Contras, in Nicaragua. Large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials. The crime is still shrouded in secrecy.

Posted by: Singing Senator | January 16, 2008 7:48 AM

W at the prom, with his date. President Buffoon.

Posted by: prospero | January 16, 2008 2:36 PM

Pure comedy, looks very regal doesnt he? All he needs is a hunting falcon and a rolls royce.


Posted by: if | January 16, 2008 4:57 PM

Singing Senator's comments on Elliot Abrams are much too polite and brief.

Perhaps Bush would have been kind enough to have left Abrams behind in Riyadh and the brave draft dodger could battle Wahabism from the inside.

I frankly don't care about his support for Israel, but I do care about his lack of support for our constitution.

Posted by: National Insecurity | January 17, 2008 2:30 AM

Where are the photographs of GW Bush in Desert Arab Robes??? You would think that the so called "liberal press" would have printed them in an attempt to make Bush look ridiculous and subject him to the scorn of the unrelenting Bush Haters??? Oh wait! It's a corporate press that only ridicules Democrats. Eeeeeeyah!!

Posted by: thebobbob | January 18, 2008 4:43 PM

If world peace could be solved with a trip to Macy's, why didn't we think of it sooner?

Posted by: standby | January 23, 2008 10:38 AM

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