DIRTYING WHITE: Not a happy day yesterday for Democrats determined to turn Enron into a scandal damaging to Republicans. According to Juliet Eilperin's Washington Post story yesterday, Enron "has yet to become the cutting political issue that some Democrats had hoped it would be." Americans see it as "a business fiasco, not a political scandal." And enough Democrats took Enron money "to dull the point the Republicans took considerably more." And as one state official told Eilperin, "Democrats got half as much and did twice as much for Enron." End of story?
Not quite. Army secretary Thomas White, a former Enron executive, remains a target. His latest sin, according to Senators Levin and Warner: "failing to disclose that he continued to hold financial interests in Enron long after he had pledged to the Senate that he would divest." In fact, instead of disposing of his Enron holdings by last November 30, he held them until the week before last. The left-liberal Joshua Marshall, always happy to see an administration official eat dirt, interprets Ari Fleischer's comments on the matter as a sign the White House is ready to abandon White. Whatever the case, the latest charges against White appear ridiculous. Up to now one key aspect of the scandal was executives cashing their stock holdings well ahead of the company's crash. So White is to be done in because he did NOT take the money and run? Better they should rename Enron Field after him.
A CURSED TRINITY:Howard Kurtz is probably the most productive daily reporter in Washington. So when you seem him pitch in with a front page Sunday story, as he did yesterday, you know it carries extra weight. Thanks to Kurtz, we know why the network newsmen have been circling the wagons for Nightline's Ted Koppel: the evening and nightly news with Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings could be next. The same dynamic that has the corporate owners of ABC preparing to jettison Koppel reflects thinking at all the networks. As Ken Bode tells Kurtz: "When Brokaw, Jennings and Rather retire" -- and Brokaw at 62 is the youngest of the three -- "it is a perfect time for these corporations to decide their newscasts are no longer worth it. Unless something dramatic happens, inevitably, the network newscasts are gone." With news available at all hours on the all news channels and the Internet, the evening news isn't what it used to be, particularly since younger viewers didn't grow up with the 6:30 evening news-watching habit of the pre-cable viewers.
Besides, there's now a view that the deities who anchor the news are irreplaceable. Such is their (inflated) stature, who could possibly fill their shoes? "I can't see anyone out there who could even approach Peter's stature," an ABC producer told Kurtz. In time, each will be consigned to his own mausoleum.
NIXON COUNTRY: About California's gubernatorial campaign, there are two schools of thought. Bill Simon has a chance; he doesn't have the chance of a snowball in hell. The former school is well represented on National Review Online. The latter already has been endorsed on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page by California insider Joel Kotkin. In a rather odd piece, Kotkin pays next to no attention to Simon. Instead, his focus is on incumbent Democrat Gray Davis, and it's not a pretty picture:
"California may remain the nation's most dynamic economic, cultural and technological center, but its politics are devolving into a idealess quagmire at an alarming rate.
"Call it the Graying of California. Over the past several decades, idea-driven politics have given way to a de facto one-party state -- much like the old PRI-dominated Mexico, or American flyspecks like Rhode Island and Hawaii. California Democrats hold all but one statewide office and enjoy lopsided majorities in both legislative houses. All the primary power groups, from big business and labor to various 'issue' lobbies, what might be called 'pay to play' Democrats, are on the team."
In this climate, in which the ruthless Gray does nothing but fundraise and intimidate potential critics into silence and accommodation, an inexperienced opponent like Simon will supposedly make no headway.
In his depression Kotkin fails to develop one of his most interesting observations: "Mr. Davis may in fact be among the most detested political figures -- particularly within his own party -- in recent memory."
It's one thing if California conservatives are said to "hate" Davis, as the USC political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe repeats in most every soundbite she gives the L.A. Times and other California papers. But it's also apparent that California liberals have no use for Davis either. "He has no sympathy for anyone," one major Democratic fundraiser told yesterday's New York Times, which noted that Mr. Davis has too often refused to stand for liberal principles, like opposing the death penalty." A fine recent story in the New Republic, which detailed Davis's apparatchik liked climb since his days as Jerry Brown's chief of staff, also made clear this nerdy cold fish just doesn't have the right personality stuff.
In his latest syndicated column (no link yet available), Mark Shields, of all people, writes rather witheringly about the California incumbent:
"Davis, who ... has failed to capture the imagination of the state's citizens, is now widely regarded as a tough, take-no-prisoners politician. Democratic activist Tom Higgins, an unenthusiastic backer of the governor, observes sadly, 'Gray Davis is our Nixon.'
"Davis is what former House speaker Newt Gingrich once told me he feared most politically: 'a double-death Democrat' -- aggressively endorsing capital punishment and zealous in his unfettered support for abortion..."
If as doctrinaire a Democrat as Shields gets the creeps when the subject is "double death" Gray Davis, one has to assume Bill Simon has a fighting chance. If memory serves, Mexico's PRI was defeated last time around.
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