TOM PLAYS DUMB
Concerned that Democrats were being badly left in the dust as poll numbers indicated that President Bush, if possible, is becoming even more popular, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle went on the offensive Monday with media appearances and interviews criticizing Bush for his "axis of evil" comments, his plans to extend the war on terror, as well as his judicial appointments.
"After the Olympic opening, when Daschle and the DNC saw Bush's numbers spike again, Daschle just threw a fit," says a Democratic leadership aide. "They are going negative big time for the next few weeks. They are looking to pick a fight."
Daschle, appearing on PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," was asked if the White House had consulted with him about its plans to extend the war on terror. "There have not been any preliminary conversations about this?" Lehrer asked. "There have not, no," Daschle replied.
But in fact, Daschle has received at least three briefings on the matter in the White House, according to several White House aides, including one who was present for one of the briefings. "He was there. Maybe he wasn't paying attention. Given what happened in the wake of the initial attacks in Afghanistan, this White House isn't going to tell a roomful of politicians everything, or anything specific. But Daschle knows damn well where this is going. And he never raised an objection or asked a question."
While Democrats may be itching to pick a fight, Bush's team is looking to stay above the fray. Republican staffers in both the House and Senate were recently briefed by White House political operatives on plans for the 2002 campaign. "There will be no politics from the White House, at least not the kind that will really help us, and that may be a good thing," says one longtime Senate leadership staffer.
What the White House envisions is a President Bush criss-crossing America, presenting what are termed "innovative" plans to re-organize and energize "a government for the people."
"He's going to run against broader Democratic ideals and leave the candidates to hit harder on local issues," says an RNC advance man. "By staying above the fray, but being really active on the campaign trail, he will make it harder for Democrats to attack him. And because of the kinds of proposals he's going to make, it will be hard for Democratic candidates to criticize Republican candidates."
It all sounds fuzzy, in more ways than one. "That's the way we like it. Keep 'em guessing," says one political consultant involved in the planning. Yes, but it's only supposed to be the opposition that's confused.
ONE LAST TIME
Coming off of another round of treatments for cancer, Sen. John McCain is said to be mulling retirement and has discussed the matter, if only in very general terms, with Senate minority leader Trent Lott, according to several leadership aides.
McCain, who would be up for re-election in 2004, has pinned hopes on the latest talk of some form of campaign finance reform passing in the Congress. The White House has indicated that such a bill most likely would be signed by the president. "If it was anything close to what he [McCain] wanted, it would be the capper of his political career in the Senate. That might give him the opening he's looking for to move on to something else," says a longtime adviser to the Arizona Republican. "I think he's discussing it with friends and associates."
There, we've done it. Our merger is complete. Now you can read The American Prowler and The American Spectator at the same address, Spectator.org (though TheAmericanProwler.org's previous addresses will remain in force and take you directly to our new location). Some might think we've done this under cover of war, or the Oscars, or even the NCAA playoffs. Not really, since somehow we found time to watch coverage of all three, about which you'll hearing plenty in this space in the coming hours and days. This won't be a "blog," since that's a word that sounds like slop. But at all times of the day there may be occasion to pass along some important tidbit, or truism, or even truth. So good-bye weekly editor's note. Hello to more daily appearances than the time Monica Lewinsky's lawyer hit every Sunday news show on network and cable. Watch this space for more.
Meet the Veep (posted 3/17/03)
Last time anything so one-sided filled our screens the loser was the future Sen. Joe Loserman. This time Tim Russert was the vanquished one, so stunned in fact he never found a way to make small talk about St. Patrick's Day. From Baghdad to Paris to Berkeley, the message was chilling: No one messes with Dick Cheney. Kept in the deep freeze for months, he was suddenly on center stage, a weapon of last resort signifying the U.S. means businesses. After what he said about them the French might as well retreat back to Moscow. A concerned Russert asked about "a perception" in Europe and around the world that the U.S. president is a "cowboy." So now America is supposed to be ashamed of its major contribution to world popular culture? As a Westerner himself, Cheney could only stifle a smirk. But you knew he had to be thinking: When did Russert join those Europeans in being such a yellow-belly?
What It's All About (posted 3/10/03)
Funny how those least enthusiastic about what they call "Bush's war" were also the ones most scathing about the president's failure to sound "Churchillian" at his practically funereal press conference last week. The Washington Post's couch potato in residence, Tom Shales, went to far as to suggest Bush had been "medicated." He probably would have made the same charge if Bush had been rhetorically hyper. That's really what it's come down to. Eighty to ninety percent of the hostility to "war" is nothing more than unabashed hostility to Republican/conservative Bush. Leading the way is the media-entertainment culture, almost to the point that it's ready to cheer for Saddam against Bush. Elected Democrats are itching to join in, but most feel it's not safe to go as far as that. Much as they're eager to commit political suicide, they're still not ready to do so from the tallest building. Somewhere in the back of their minds they remember Bush's policies were set in motion by 9/11. But give them time.
Yaozers (posted 3/3/03)
It was Yao Ming week in Washington, in honor of the gentlemanly and charismatic rookie NBA star from Shanghai who played his first game in the nation's capital last Thursday. The local Post treated his arrival the way it once might have a visit from Prince Di, and so the coverage was both silly and sloppy -- all of it obsessing over barriers Yao was supposedly knocking down for Asian-American athletes and fans alike. Even the normally sane Michael Wilbon couldn't keep from joining others in comparing Yao's impact to Jackie Robinson's. What an insult to all concerned. Black baseball was formidable well before Robinson joined the majors. He didn't need to turn black Americans on to the game itself. But he did have to overcome numerous barriers, at great risk. Yao, meanwhile, isn't even the first Chinese pro to play in the NBA. Nor did he have to overcome any NBA or American-imposed limits on Asian participation. What barriers he's faced are entirely Communist Chinese, which include a gargantuan lien on his earnings. Naturally, the Post totally ignored this ugly side of the story.
Meltdown (posted 2/24/03)
Last week the Great Blizzard hit, just as the peace marchers were breaking all their Vietnam era attendance records. But then the great meltdown began, hastened this past weekend by heavy rains and flooding. In the process, the peace marchers were left exposed as the drips they've been all along, posturing and preening against king and country for no reason other than that they don't don't like men surnamed Bush and Ashcroft. Insults have done them no good, nor more importantly will their efforts to save Saddam amount to anything. Lucky for them, too! Saddam's days are numbered, but they'll emerge unscathed. That's what comes of living free and easy in the West. Until the next time, when again they try to see how much freedom they can squander.
Wintry Discontent (posted 2/17/03)
Peace marchers are no match for Old Person Winter. The former can never shut down what the latter managed to this weekend in the space of several hours, no questions asked. Blizzard conditions in the Greater Capital Area have required relocation of our quarters to a custom built igloo (exact location withheld, for security purposes), out of which, fueled by whale oil, we've produced the Prowler<//I>'s latest edition. Meanwhile, we continue our preps for a merger of The American Prowler's and The American Spectator's websites. Watch this space for further instructions. And watch out for those peace marchers. You never know where they may strike next.
We're Number One (posted 2/4/03)
Don't say you forgot our birthday! On February 4 The American Prowler turned one year old. Not to brag, but we have no police record. We've not been investigated by the Justice Department, nor have we been hauled before a grand jury. Now and then someone from a Democratic campaign committee will complain, but permanent minority status means no subpoena power. Just to be in the safe side, though, we intend to rearm. Fairly soon, once the design is set, The American Prowler will set up shop at an expanded site that will also provide direct access to our progenitor, The American Spectator. Nothing like doubling your pleasure and ours. Thank you for joining us.
To Honor Columbia (posted, 2/3/03)
With every tragedy it gets more difficult. To our nation's credit, it's wonderful that the basic reaction, despite the great sadness, is to insist space exploration will continue and that's that. Everyone knows the risk going in, and those who do go in wouldn't have it any other way. For our times that's an exceptional attitude, but will it hold? Or more specifically, will it be allowed to hold? A disaster every fifty flights or so suddenly seems unsustainable. If we do go back it will have to be under entirely different conditions, in which NASA has finally responded to long-seething dissatisfaction by agreeing to genuine structural and technological overhauls. For that to happen will above all require political imagination and leadership from the President and Congress, so that public support for and loyalty to the space program can amount to more than a sentimental exercise.
When Words Fail (posted, 1/27/03)
So now that it's out of the way, Saddam won't have the Super Bowl to hide behind. Given certain attitudes in the West he must be counting on Valentine's to provide him with his next protective shield. But then what? Sooner or later he'll be on his own. Totally. True, the powers that be may not notice. They'll be renewing their own attacks on a president who they keep accusing of "rushing" to war. But rushing implies speed, being in a hurry, not running in place for year. Alas, a mind set on appeasement doesn't think clearly so it's incapable of presenting an intelligent critique. It's an old habit. Just the other day the N.Y. Times ran a wire service obituary of Alan Nunn May, a Brit who gave away atomic secrets to the USSR. In its headline, the Times called him a "Pioneer In Atomic Spying for Soviets." Pioneer? How quaint. Why, if not for Nunn we might have never heard the Rosenbergs. We owe him big.