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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

'Stonewalling'

The public editor of the New York Times yesterday accused the newspaper's publisher and executive editor of "stonewalling," a term that first gained currency during the Watergate investigation.

However, the public editor, Byron Calame, was not criticizing the newspaper for endangering national security with its story about the National Security Agency intercepting phone calls to the United States from terrorists overseas. Rather, Mr. Calame seemed upset that the newspaper put off publishing the article for a year, when it might have gone to press before the 2004 presidential election.

"For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making," Mr. Calame said in a column yesterday. "My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrentless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States.

"I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future."

Mr. Clame said that "despite this stonewalling," he intended to question why the paper waited to publish the article.

Mr. Clame did not mention that the executive editor and the publisher may have a more difficult time stonewalling the Justice Department, which is investigating the leak.

Romney's chances

Could Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008? James Taranto asks at www.OpinionJournal.com.

"Three early primaries look promising: New Hampshire, where he is well-known from governing the state next door; Michigan, where his family name has cachet; and Arizona, which has a large Mormon population. But these are not enough -- as Sen. McCain, who won all three contests in 2000, can attest," Mr. Taranto said.

"A crucial question will be whether Mr. Romney's religion is a handicap. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indigenous to America, but many Americans view it with suspicion. In a 1999 Gallup poll, 17 percent of those surveyed said they would not vote for a Mormon for president, far more than said the same of a Jew (6 percent) or a Catholic (4 percent).

"In 1994, Sen. [Edward M.] Kennedy made an issue of the LDS Church's tardy embrace of racial equality (it did not allow the ordination of blacks until 1978). 'I don't think that's the reason I lost to Ted Kennedy,' says Mr. Romney, and he's surely right. In any case, Mr. Kennedy doesn't seem to have any problem today answering to a Mormon Senate leader, Harry Reid."

Mr. Romney also says religion wasn't a problem for his father, who was governor of Michigan, but failed as a presidential candidate when he said he had been "brainwashed" during a visit to Vietnam.

"When he was running for president ... he was the front-runner. His faith just didn't factor in. His statement on Vietnam -- that put him under, but certainly not his faith," Mr. Romney said.

Said Mr. Taranto: "The trouble is that much of today's anti-Mormon sentiment is found on the religious right, a constituency that looms much larger in the GOP now than it did in 1968, or than it ever has in Massachusetts. Ask a conservative Christian what he thinks of Mormonism, and there's a good chance he'll call it a 'cult' or say Mormons 'aren't Christian' "

"Yet on the issues, Mr. Romney is largely in tune with the Christian right. 'I am pro-life,' he says, though he's not an absolutist. He favors a return to the status quo ante Roe v. Wade, when states decided abortion policy."

Hillary vs. Condi

"Curb your enthusiasm and fasten your seat belts; today marks the first day of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito wrote on New Year's Day.

"This is a moment of glee in many camps. Others are observing a moment of silence with a primal scream quickly to follow," the columnist said.

"Yes, let the mockery begin: The Clintons are back and open for business. And according to Dick Morris, the Clintons' one-time confidant, the only person who can stop Hillary is Condoleezza Rice.

If you look just at the demographic argument for Condi's candidacy, Morris' theory is flawless. Taking white men out of the equation -- the results among white men in '08 will be pretty similar to '04 -- the real issue is swing suburban women and minorities.

"Morris explains it like a simple math equation: 'Hillary has an attractiveness to white women that is extraordinary. And I think that she gets the usual Democratic support from blacks and Hispanics. I think that the only way to stop Hillary from winning is by running someone that will appeal to women and take that black vote away from her.'"

"That someone would be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a woman who probably has the best personal story to tell of any modern political figure since Ronald Reagan.

"But it's not all demographics, Morris says. 'Condi is a woman that has made it on her own, whose accomplishments are hers.' Hold that up to Hillary, whose 'accomplishments are entirely derivative of her husband's,' making even the National Organization of I-don't-know-what-kind-of-Women wince.

"The potential exists that America will have in front of it two models of feminine advancement -- one dependent on a husband, the other independent. Morris may be on to something when he says 'the Condi Rice model will be much more attractive to women.'

"But will Condi run? Her answer is consistently 'No,' which of course means nothing. Nobody who is ever running for president is running for president.

"Well, except maybe for John Kerry."

'Message' movies

"'If you want to send a message, call Western Union.' That's an old joke in Hollywood, dating back to the days when Western Union was a big deal. The idea is that the movies should be about making money, not making political or social points," James Pinkertonwrites at www.tcsdaily.com.

"The old chestnut is being proven again in this Christmas season. Currently, the two movies duking it out for tops at the box office are avowedly apolitical: 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and 'King Kong.'

"By contrast, the overtly political films have done poorly. The Chomskyite 'Syriana' isn't doing much, and neither did the p.c.-preachy 'North Country,'" Mr. Pinkerton said.

"The latest political movie is 'Munich.' If even the legendary director StevenSpielberg can't sell a 'message' movie in 2005, then probably nobody can. Spielberg described his film as 'a prayer for peace' in the Middle East. That it might be, but his fictionalization of the story of the Israeli government's effort to avenge the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre is certainly not going to be remembered as a prayer for money."

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