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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

Daschle and Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid opposes Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination, but his predecessor — former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle — sees things differently.

"President Bush has produced a nominee that probably qualifies, and I would support him," Mr. Daschle was quoted as saying in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader yesterday.

The comments by the South Dakota Democrat, who lost his Senate re-election bid last year, were made during an interview on Randy McDaniel's KSOO Radio talk show.

'Senator Ahab'

New York Times columnist David Brooks noticed a certain hostility in Sen. John Kerry's speech this week about Hurricane Katrina.

"Kerry began his speech by making the point that Bush and his crew are rotten. He then went on to make the point that Bush and his crew are loathsome. In the third section of the speech, Kerry left the impression that Bush and his crew are evil," Mr. Brooks writes.

"Now we all know people so consumed by hatred for George Bush that they haven't had an unpredictable thought in five years, but in Kerry's speech one sees this anger in almost clinical form.

"In the first place, not even Karl Rove's worldview is so obsessively Bush-centric as John Kerry's. There are many interesting issues raised by Katrina, but for Senator Ahab it all goes back to the great white monster, Bush. Bush and his crew should have known the levees were weak. Bush and his crew should have known thousands in New Orleans would be trapped. (Did I miss Kerry's own warnings on these subjects?)

"All reality flows back to Bush. All begins with Bush, ends with Bush, is explained by Bush and is polluted by Bush, cursed be thy name."

Bad ideas

"The stalwart performance of stock and bond markets in the past three weeks suggests that investors believe the U.S. economy can bear the shock of Katrina. The political shock from the Beltway is a more serious matter," the Wall Street Journal says.

"Markets have begun to get rattled in the last couple of days, both in fear of further damage in the Gulf region from Hurricane Rita, and in response to the bad ideas that are starting to flow fast and furious from Congress.

"These include Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's endorsement of energy price controls (to stop 'gouging'), gasoline tax increases, suspension of the new bankruptcy law, and even a revival of the oil 'windfall profits' tax. When Jimmy Carter embraced this latter brainstorm in the 1970s, it exacerbated the energy crisis by slowing oil exploration in America and keeping oil prices higher than they had to be," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"But the worst news is that a handful of GOP senators think a tax increase is needed to pay for Katrina spending. Their immediate target is the 15 percent rate on capital gains and dividends that was a crucial part of the wildly successful 2003 tax cuts. Those rates are set to expire in 2008, which would mean a big tax increase back to a 35 percent rate on dividends, and 20 percent on capital gains.

"To prevent such a tax hike, Republicans have included a two-year extension on the 15 percent rates, to 2010, in this year's budget reconciliation bill. Under Congress' arcane budget rules, this means the extensions can pass with 50 Senate votes, instead of 60. Before Katrina, they were all set to pass.

"But now some GOP senators are suggesting that they should redo reconciliation and drop the capital gains and dividend tax cuts. We're told Ohio's George Voinovich, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg and Maine's Olympia Snowe are three of the troublemakers. As ominously, Majority Leader Bill Frist's chief budget aide, Bill Hoagland, has floated the idea on the record in this newspaper. If this is the kind of advice Mr. Frist is getting, much less listening to, he's going to have a hard time ever becoming president."

PC villains

The bad guys in Jodie Foster's new movie "Flight Plan" are a flight attendant and a federal air marshal, instead of the politically incorrect Arab villains.

The movie, which opens nationwide today, is "an outrageous piece of propaganda and incredible display of the irresponsible," declares Debbie Schlussel. "If you're a freedom-loving American like me, the rotten tricks of this movie will disgust you."

At her blog (www.debbieschlussel.com) the Detroit-based columnist writes: "Throughout 'Flight Plan,' we are given hints — very strong hints — that four Muslim Arabs are the terrorists on the plane. ... Instead, the terrorists are the flight's air marshal and a flight attendant.

"That is an outrage for a number of reasons. Two of those reasons are Betty Ong and Madeleine Amy Sweeney. Both were among the many flight attendants who gave their lives on 9/11.

"They weren't terrorists. They were American heroes. Instead of calling their families to say good-bye, they contacted ground crews and identified the hijackers. It was because of them that authorities were able to identify Mohamed Atta and his 18 thugs as al Qaeda.

"Other flight attendants were brutally murdered by the hijackers, who slit their throats."

The film is also a "huge blow" to the image of federal air marshals, Miss Schlussel says.

"Is it more likely that a dedicated, patriotic American [air marshal] ... would be a terrorist hijacker ... or four suspicious-looking, strange-acting Arab Muslims? 'Flight Plan' wants you to think the former."

Noting that Miss Foster "is set to play Nazi film propagandist Leni Riefenstahl in an upcoming movie," Miss Schlussel asks: "And John Hinckley tried to murder a president to impress this woman?"

Weekend plans

President Bush this weekend has the dilemma that all bar bouncers yell out at closing time: You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

With a major anti-war protest planned for Washington over the weekend — not to mention demonstrations that usually accompany the annual International Monetary Fund meeting, also here this weekend — the White House made plans for the president to spend a little time out of the nation's capital.

At first, Mr. Bush planned to travel today to Birmingham, Ala., for an overnight stay, then head tomorrow to Texas and Arkansas. But those plans were thrown into flux yesterday as Hurricane Rita grew into a Category 5 storm, although it weakened some later. The entire trip was put on hold.

By the end of the day yesterday, the White House announced Mr. Bush will visit Texas today to get a firsthand look at emergency preparations for Rita, then spend the night in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Why head to the mountains when there's a hurricane coming? He can't come back to Washington, and heading to his sprawling 1,600-acre ranch near Waco, Texas, would be awkward with the Texas coast being lashed by 100 mph winds and torrential rain.

But there's a better reason: Mr. Bush will visit U.S. Northern Command, which is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, tomorrow. A stop at the command center, created in 2002 to head the military's land, sea and air defense of the United States, "will give him a firsthand look at the Northern Command and how the military is assisting in federal government response efforts to Hurricane Rita," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Asked whether the president's visit to Texas will affect efforts there to prepare for Rita, the spokesman said: "We're going to have as minimal a footprint as possible. We're not going to get in the way of the ongoing preparations."

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com