ON HIS NEAS
“He’s out there on his own,” says a far-left Democratic Senate staffer of People for the American Way’s Ralph Neas. “He’s not going to get much help, I’m afraid.”
The discussion is about the Bush Administration’s first Supreme Court nominee, Judge John Roberts, and the lightning fast PR offensive orchestrated by former RNC head Ed Gillespie out of the West Wing of the White House.
“They just buried us, and took us out of the game, at least for now,” says the staffer, who had been preparing her boss to push back hard on any nominee, but particularly Judge Edith Jones. “We were expecting a woman, and we were ready for her. Not what we got on Tuesday night. And neither were our groups, like People and NARAL.”
Ill-preparedness has never stopped Neas, however, from opening his mouth, and the media needed a lefty mouthpiece to debate whomever the Republicans put forward, whether it be Barbara Comstock or Sen. Fred Thompson or former White House counsel Boyden Gray.
“Neas is probably going to get a lot of airtime, because there isn’t anyone willing to get out too far on [Roberts],” says a Democratic leadership staffer. “Our folks are eventually going to have lots to say about the nominee, but they can’t do the slash and burn stuff the way Ralph is [doing it]. Frankly, we cringe every time he goes on the air, because he just looks so bitter. Compare that to the man he’s talking about, with the smile and the kids, and who do you think wins?”
The ugliness of the Democratic attack so far — attacking the Roberts family’s faith, hinting that Roberts might be a closeted homosexual, attempting to link him to the Iran-Contra scandal knowing that it was a different John Roberts — indicates how desperate some on the far-left fringe are willing to go to beat the Bush Administration.
But it isn’t just the fringe groups. According to a former Kerry campaign staffer who has returned to doing work for MoveOn.org, Democratic Senate leadership staff with ties to the caucus’s opposition research unit have been sharing information about Roberts and taking part in strategy calls with the Democratic third-party community that is raising money against Roberts.
“There is plenty of time for us to get to know the real Roberts,” says another Democratic Senate staffer. “The White House can paint whatever picture it wants, but we’re going to get a chance to strip it down during the hearings.”
HUGHES AND KISSES
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA): “I will launch a new era of public diplomacy to explain our policies to the world and to combat lies and distortions about America.”
That’s what Kerry said during the second Presidential debate last fall, but apparently, judging by his failure to attend Friday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for public diplomacy designate Karen Hughes, Kerry’s new era of diplomacy will have to wait.
Kerry took a pass on Hughes’s confirmation hearing to instead fly to Paris to watch American Lance Armstrong win his 7th Tour de France. Ten days ago, when Kerry staffers presented him with a briefing book on the Hughes nomination, including pointed questions about the Joe Wilson scandal and the apparent intelligence gaffes in Iraqi weapons capacity before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kerry took a pass.
“He wasn’t interested in the hearing at all,” says a Democratic Foreign Relations staffer. “In fact, none of our team was particularly interested. They said they’d wait for the fall.”
But by then, expectations are that Hughes will have been confirmed. Democratic third-party groups were livid that not a single Democrat showed up for the Hughes hearing on Friday. That left Republican Sens. Dick Lugar and George Voinovich to hold down the fort.
Similar briefing books to Kerry’s were handed off to ranking member Sens. Joseph Biden and Chris Dodd, both of whom have in the past aspired to higher profiles within the Senate and the nation. Yet both also took a flyer on the hearing.
But Kerry’s decision to play to the very stereotype Republicans and even some Democrats laid on him during the election — a French-loving dilettante — flabbergasted his advisers and supporters.
“We got some calls over the weekend when it was discovered where he was,” says a current Kerry staffer with ties to his campaign last year. “This wasn’t a good decision on his part, but this is why he’s still in the Senate and not in the White House. It’s mystifying to a lot of us.”
COMING OUT OF HER SHELL
Another hearing on Capitol Hill garnered better attendance, at least by Democrats: Rep. Cynthia McKinney‘s hearing on her obsession: her belief that the Bush Administration had a role in the September 11th attack.
McKinney, wasn’t the only nut in the room. There were Georgia-grown peanuts available to attendees, along with the 50 or so attendees who were there in support of the left-wing mythology that the American government was somehow involved in the tragic events almost four years ago.
Perhaps the most interesting individual to testify before McKinney’s “hearing” was Melvin Goodman, a former CIA employee, who has also been front and center in the Joe Wilson leak scandal. Goodman, one of the signatories to a letter sent out by fellow CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson, is on record as believing that McKinney’s beliefs are in the mainstream, though voters were at one time less likely to believe her. The heavily Democratic district voted McKinney out of office in 2002, re-electing her two years later when the Democrat who had ousted her chose to run for the Senate instead.
McKinney’s hearing went on for more than eight hours, much of it broadcast live on the Internet.
Perhaps most interesting, younger staffers from the Democratic National Committee could be seen floating in and out of the hearing. It was unclear whether they were there to monitor the insanity or to participate in it, however.
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