- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

If the introduction of Dick Cheney is an accurate guide to what's coming, George W. and his Republicans are in for a bumpy ride to November.

The Republicans can't afford to act like Republicans, ever eager to retreat.

The mad dogs of the Democratic attack machine rushed out of their kennel in full throat, spreading to every network and cable-TV talk show this side of Peoria, viewing with alarm the richly imagined sins of Mr. Cheney.

He was denounced as an overage homophobic misogynist, contemptuous of gays on the scout for a little respect and love for all the wrong places and feminists on the scout for an abortion as the rite of passage guaranteed by the Constitution, the stalker of children, plunderer of poor boxes, robber of graves, insulter of African potentates. One aging boomerette from Time magazine had even discovered the ultimate disqualification: Mr. Cheney, she told the vast audience of the educational-TV network, is … [gasp] … "another white [arrrgh] … male."

Anyone who waited for the Republican guard dogs to leap to defend the governor's choice had a very long wait. You might think most of them were belly up to the bar at the country club, sipping martinis and grousing about their putters and how the greenskeepers were letting the fairways go brown and here it is only July.

Even worse were those who were not at the country club. John Danforth, the former senator and sometime Episcopal divine from Missouri who left the Senate four years ago to return to the rigors of rectory tea, came to Washington to preen to the Senate Judiciary Committee about what a fine job he had done in applying two thick coats of whitewash to Janet Reno's armored assault on a very low-church religious cult at Waco. Definitely not our kind, dear.

Mr. Danforth seemed still a little steamed that he had been led to believe that he might be W.'s veep, only to be relegated to the also-rans, has-beens and never would-bes. Can't he get a little respect here? This is the scion of the nation's most famous chicken-feed family, not Rodney Dangerfield.

Mr. Danforth is typical of the high-church preachers ever eager to ingratiate themselves with those whose hands rest on the levers of power. He indulged in the kind of hyperbole not seen in Washington since George McGovern pronounced himself "a thousand percent" behind Tom Eagleton two days before telling him to get lost. Mr. Danforth said he was "a hundred percent sure" that Janet Reno had not done anything wrong when she ordered the assault to save the children from child abuse. Indeed, none of the children who died in Mzz Reno's fire has been abused since. Mr. Danforth lectured the senators about the "climate of conspiracy" that surrounds Bill Clinton and maybe even Al Gore.

Mr. Danforth insists that his crack investigators found that David Koresh and his followers started the fire before the government could do it. But this has never been the point of what went wrong at Waco. Why was the government so eager to end the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in the first place, when the FBI and the ATF agents could have waited at their ease for the cultists to give up. A lot of people in Waco concluded that the government agents had become frustrated that they were all armed and ready with no one to shoot. The gang couldn't wait any longer for a little bang-bang.

Mr. Danforth was asked by President Clinton, who knows a thing or two about whom to assign to delicate tasks, to investigate what happened at Waco after the news inconveniently surfaced that three "pyrotechnic" tear gas rounds were fired near the Branch Davidian compound shortly before fire consumed 80 men, women and children. Mzz Reno and the FBI had insisted for six years that such pyrotechnic rounds had not been fired at Waco.

Well, pshaw and lawzy me, says Mr. Danforth. Mzz Reno and the FBI and the Justice Department lawyers never knew anything about that. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania senator who learned as a U.S. district attorney to be suspicious of the kinds of stories that high-church preachers swallow whole, didn't need the lecture. "It's pretty hard," he said, "to put speculation or the conspiracy theorists at bay given the pattern of concealment of the pyrotechnic rounds."

If he had thought of that, Mr. Danforth gave no sign of it. He had hurried out with his interim report, he said, because he "knew" he was under consideration to be W.'s vice-presidential candidate. "I wanted to be sure my fingerprints were on the conclusions."

With sorry summer soldiers like this, who needs an enemy in November?

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