- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew over our carefree and debonair president, George W. Bush. Last week the worry was that he was not going to get along very well with the European leaders during his brief trip there. This week the worry is that he got along too well, particularly with one of them, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fashionable Washingtons mood swings are amazing. Last week for several days the headlines were painful to the eye. Europe and Mr. Bush were headed toward a gigantic blowup, the elegant Europeans offended by the boorish Mr. Bush. Then came the weekend and the joyous aftermath of the presidents pleasant meetings with EU leaders. Of a sudden, the mood of fashionable Washington had swung round to what a winning fellow the president proved to be. Ah rejoice, Bush II was a success in the Old World; but the joy could not last.
Within hours came another mood swing. By early this week, the headlines reported widespread alarm in Washington over President Bushs chummy meeting with President Putin. "Others concerned about presidents new trust in Russian leader," is how The Washington Post phrased it. Concerned about "new trust" between the presidents of Russian and the United States? How could this be? Were these the concerns of right-wingers nostalgic for the Cold War?
Well, no, the alarms issued mainly from Democrats and from liberal columnists. They did not like the way the president claimed to have found Mr. Putin "trustworthy." They were distressed that Mr. Bush made some sort of claim about the former KGB agents "soul" ("I was able to get a sense of his soul… . Hes an honest, straightforward man," was the incriminating line). Up stepped Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware to voice the Democrats concern. Mr. Bush was being naive.
But wait a minute. Just last week the Hon. Biden was concerned that Mr. Bush was going to provoke the Russian with his administrations plans to expand NATO to the Russian border and to discard the ABM Treaty. Mr. Bush pursued these very same policies and both Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush walked away from their meeting abounding with good cheer. Said Mr. Putin, he now possessed "a very high level of trust" in Mr. Bush. Why are the Democrats still alarmed with Mr. Bush? Why do they find the sudden chumminess between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin distressing? Did they not note that even the European press, much of it left-wing, had by the end of the American presidents visit come to respect him; for, as the French newspaper Liberation discovered, the president is "manifestly not the superficial buffoon portrayed in the media."
The answer resides in the Democrats partisanship. It is their main political instinct, at times their sole instinct. They are going to oppose this Republican president whether he is too harsh toward the Russians or too friendly. They are going to oppose him on the environment whatever he does. They are going to make an issue of his every judicial appointment. They are going to continue to be in a tremendous fever over his occupancy of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. They still believe him to be an illegitimate president.
Notwithstanding the fact that every test of the Florida presidential election shows Bush-Cheney to have won, the Democrats are going to deny it. Their position is illogical. That is what makes their opposition to Mr. Bush all the more hostile. It is the hostility of the enraged.
For 20 years or more the center of American politics has been shifting to the right. The center of the Democratic Party has shifted to the left. The party is not dominated by its moderates. Sens. Zell Miller of Georgia and John Breaux of Louisiana are not the leaders of the party. It is led by Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, with Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York coming on strong. Mr. Miller and Mr. Breaux vote occasionally with the Republicans Mr. Daschle, Mr. Kennedy and Mrs. Clinton almost never. They will accommodate the Bush administration on nothing.
That the suave George Bush II could not come back from his successful meeting with the Europeans to the accolades of Republicans and Democrats alike is an omen of things to come. The most brutal assault on him will come in the battle over judicial appointments. Surely he knows this. As the battle heats up later this summer, savor this irony. When Mr. Bush visited Europe, the left-wing Europeans, who were ready to revile him and already had derided him, relented, persuaded as they were by his good intentions and thoughtful proposals. When he comes up against the left-wing Democrats dominating their party at home, he will get no such consideration. It is an extension of that elegant conception they came up with in the early 1990s, "the war room."

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator.


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