Exclusive Interview: Socks Clinton

Socks and Hillary ClintonThere’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the upcoming release of former First Cat Socks Clinton‘s new memoir, First Cat: A White House Memoir. Chapati Mystery was fortunate enough to be granted an exclusive interview with Socks in which he discussed his book, life after the White House and his views on personal fitness and the upcoming presidential primaries. I met Socks at a cafe near his new home in Hollywood, MD. Socks was wearing a Native American designed collar (“From a retreat in Santa Fe,” he explained) and drinking steamed milk with honey.

Chapati Mystery: I want to thank you for giving us the honor of this interview; we really enjoyed the excerpts from your book and have followed your career closely over the years.

Socks Clinton: The pleasure is all mine. I enjoy your website very much.

CM: To start out, could you tell us a little bit about your book?

SC: Yes, of course. People have been after me to do a book, some kind of memoir, ever since we left the White House. I realize that my perspective on those years is unique, but that was never enough to interest me in the project. There are a lot of bad memories too, and Betty [Currie] and I have been trying to move beyond those, so for a long time I really didn’t want to dig things up.

CM: What changed?
Continue reading Exclusive Interview: Socks Clinton

Round Up X

Zulfiqar and Benazir Bhutto with Indira Gandhi
Benazir’s 19 year old son, Bilawal, has been named successor to Pakistan People’s Party – to keep the dynastic aspirations intact. And why not? There is no democracy outside of the party, no reason for it to exist within. One can call this a reflection of the feudal structures left untouched by many a pseudo-revolutions; one can point to the long history of the pir/spiritual guide’s extension into the political realm; one can blame lack of political education and access to corridors of power for the members of PPP; and one can acknowledge that the military regimes have sufficiently retarded all venues of political legitimacy, such that there simply cannot be any alternatives to the once-future leaders – Bhuttos, Jatois, Bugtis, Sharifs. Whatever the case you wish to make, reality is that “politics” in Pakistan has, and will, remain a hereditary, charismatic domain built around cults of personalities – until and unless electoral politics takes firm roots.

The PPP will contest the elections on Jan 8th, 2008. If they are held.

The American blogosphere seems obsessed with figuring out how she died: see TPM and Dkos. Someone ought to inform them that there is no reason to even acknowledge official statements on this point. In any event, Dawn News has published photos of the assassin that should end all CSI-ish speculations.

update: Which is not to say that the assassination, the hasty removal of evidence, the lack of investigation and the clumsy attempts to hoist the blame onto someone else doesn’t have precedence in Pakistan’s immediate past.

A dear friend sends chilling words from Karachi:

This is to let you know that I am alright, incase you are wondering about my well being in view of the current situation in Pakistan.

I would like to say that it is a bad dream but it is not, it is a bitter reality. I have lived in Karachi for long but never have I seen anything of this magnitude.

The night of December 27 will remain etched in my memory for some time. After hearing the news about Benazir’s death we shut down office early that evening and left around 7PM. I was with 4 of my colleagues who lived in the same area. After dropping one person in Gulshan-e-Iqbal we proceeded towards Gulistan-e-Jauhar (where I live. It was one of the most affected areas in Karachi which was the most violent place that night). There are 4 entry points to this area, we tried each one by one but were stopped by blaze and angry mobs burning, doing pathrao (stone pelting) and firing. After turninng away from each entry point, I thought of an alternate last option. When we reached there we ran into heavy blaze, turned around to go into another direction but after a couple of blocks stopped by another street-end closed by a heavy blaze. We stopped there just to think about the next step, all of a sudden people started assembling around the fire with batons, glass bottles and other stuff like that. The next 30 seconds were in slow motion, they were eyeballing us and then all hell broke loose. They charged throwing all kinds of heavy stuff at the windshield and hitting windows with batons. My friend started reversing the car and they kept running with the car and attacking. We went back may be half a block or so and then they stopped, may be we had reached a point after which they didn’t want to proceed. It may have lasted a minute or two but man! it seemed like an eternity. As soon as they stopped we turned into the first street we saw and stopped to gather our wits. We spent the next several hours in this unknown street in an stranger’s house (who was nice enough to give us refuge till the situiation got better). I finally got home after about 24 hours. On my way home last night around 11PM, the city looked liked a ghost town. Streets and even main roads were covered with broken glass and burnt vehicles were scattered all over the streets. I have never seen it like this not even under curfew. This was a horrible experience, but it could have been so much worse, they could have shot at us or use petrol bombs which were used that night to torch vehicles.

The faces I saw that night didn’t seem like they were from among us, there was blind fury in their eyes, it felt like we were in enemy teritory in another country. As events have unfolded since December 27 it is definitley not just spontaneous reaction of Benazir’s death; it is a well orchestrated move for anarchy and to destabilze the country. Not all of the news is out, most of the Sindh has been practically razed. Only in Karachi over 600 vehicles were burnt in less than 24 hours, in addition to this widespread looting and arson took place. Hope things get better soon.

Many others have observed that these riots appear to be orchestrated.

Stay safe, my friend. Stay safe.

Round Up IX

I am still terribly sad – not just for her but for the nation of Pakistan.

She was buried, in the mausoleum of her father. It is still unclear how she died but the explanations from the Pakistani government grow ridiculous by the minute.

Nawaz Sharif has announced that he will boycott the elections. PPP is going into 40 days of mourning. MQM and the Jamaat has yet to announce their intentions. The goverment is to call an All Party Conference to discuss the once future elections.

I admit that even though I have been talking to reporters nonstop yesterday, I have little analysis to offer but you can listen to Tariq Ali – and me in a supporting role – on Democracy Now!, from this morning and get a sense. This lengthy profile by Tariq Ali in the LRB should also have your attention.

John Moore’s photo-report is quite amazing. If anyone knows about the text or audio of her speech at Liaqut Bagh, please drop me a line.

Finally, Naim Sahib forwarded his self-termed “angry” analysis. It lies below the fold.
Continue reading Round Up IX

Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007

Benazir Bhutto was killed at a PPP rally in Rawalpindi. At least 15 other are being reported dead in the attack. The election rally, with “foolproof security”, was held at Liaqut Bagh – a site which had already seen the assassination of another Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaqut Ali Khan.

There were earlier reports of security threats on her rally – similar reports were issued before the suicide attack on her in October.

In the nation whose history is dotted by military coups, assassinations and hangings of public figures, this is surely the bloodiest stain. She titled her autobiography, the Daughter of Destiny – but surely she deserved a fate other than the destiny of her father and Liaqut Ali Khan. It is truly a tragedy and a revelation of the chaos gripping the nation.

aftermath: Riots are being reported in various cities. Rawalpindi is in chaos. Cable and cell phone services has been suspended in most of the country. Rumors are flying of curfews. No word from Musharraf, yet. Getty Images’ collection of photos taken at the rally by Aamir Qureshi.

– A rather disturbingly condescending obituary from the NYT. She had “grand ambition”, “considerable charm”, and engaged in a “dance of veils”. How Salomé of her. I also like how she is humanized for the American readers by a scant connection to an American diplomat.

Update from lapata: A really excellent photo album of Benazir here.

Strange: NYT has changed their Obit – Benazir Bhutto, 54, Weathered Political Storm, by John Burns. But get this, the earlier obit that I linked to above, has been amended to remove references to “veils” and “world’s first prime leader” to “first female leader”. How odd. You can still read the older, reflexively paternalistic and orientalist reading, written by Jane Perlez and Victoria Burnett, here.

Gulgee, 1926-2007

The list of legends in Pakistani art is a short list: Sadequain (1930-1987), A. R. Chughtai (1899–1975), Shakir Ali (1916-1975), Laila Shahzada (1926-1994), and Ismail Gulgee (1926-2007). It was great shock, this morning, to read that Ismail Gulgee was found murdered in Karachi at his home.

Once, a long time ago, I attended a gallery talk where he discussed Mughal art. I remember only that I left feeling immense admiration for his eloquence and his art. There is scarcely a public building in Lahore or Karachi that doesn’t contain a print of his abstract series or of his calligraphy series.

Hasnat Abdul Hye has a short biographical essay on him that gives details of his life and career. More recently is an interview with him by Humayun Gauhar. You can also view his art in the accompanying photo essay.

A great loss for art and artists in Pakistan.