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Friday, November 15, 2002

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Saddam may go out with a whimper, not a bang.

Over the years I've closely observed a number of political scandals unfold here in California and elsewhere in the country. For example, California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush resigned last year rather than face impeachment or recall after his corrupt fundraising practices became public. Locally we had Ventura County Community College Chancellor Phil Westin recently resign after engaging in some wholesale expense account padding and other improprieties. In these and other cases I have noticed that a sure tip-off that the miscreant was about to go was when he started repeatedly denying to the press that he would even consider resigning.

These events follow a trajectory. The politician lashes out at his critics and denies that he's ever done anything wrong. He insists that he will defend his honor and reputation and never give up. The pressure grows and grows, until it becomes obvious that his ouster is only a matter of time. The media begins to focus on questions of how and when he'll depart. The politician's protestations of innocence grow louder and louder, as does his defiance of all his enemies. But the louder he shouts, the more desperate he sounds. His staunchest supporters distance themselves from him. He appears delusional and cut off from reality, as he frantically tries to convince anyone who will listen to him that he'll never give up.

Then suddenly he cuts a deal and resigns and it's all over. Some of his more emotional critics complain that he got off too lightly. But most people are just happy to see him go, and happy to see it happen with much less mess and bother than they had feared it would take.

Saddam Hussein is not precisely comparable to a U.S. politician, and I admit this is stretching the analogy a bit far, but we may be on the verge of a similar situation in Iraq. The U.K. Times is reporting that Hussein wants to pay Libya $3.5 billion to provide a bolt hole for his relatives and associates.

It's a bad, bad sign for Saddam when stories surface about him trying to arrange for a safe haven. His power could begin unravelling really fast.

I know it seems too wonderfully optimistic a scenario, that Saddam's dictatorship might collapse with barely a shot being fired. But the early signs are there.








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