- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

BABE AND ‘BABY’

The controversy swirling around CNN’s Campbell Brown’s on-air “takedown” this week of Tucker Bounds, spokesman for Sen. John McCain, resulting in the Republican candidate pulling out of a scheduled interview with the network, centers on the interviewer’s relentless pursuit of answers surrounding vice-presidential pick Gov. Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience.

However, the bigger issue, one might argue, doesn’t surround Mrs. Brown’s persistent line or manner of questioning. Arguably, she was only performing her job, much in the mold of her one-time colleague, the late NBC “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert.

If any insult was hurled at Mr. Bounds, it more likely came at the end of Mrs. Brown’s one-on-one interview.

“All right, Tucker,” she concluded in a softer but obviously sarcastic tone. “I’m just going to give it to ya, baby.”

And, for whatever reason (probably because he prefers to keep his job), Mr. Bounds sat there and took the insult with half a smile on his face.

Baby?

“You’re not from the South,” Mrs. Brown told this columnist by telephone Wednesday from Minneapolis.

Actually, I am from the South, remember?

“Well, I grew up in Louisiana. My grandmother still lives in Mississippi,” she said.

The point?

“It’s a Southern thing: ‘honey,’ ‘baby,’ ‘sweetie.’ I say it to everybody. It’s a term of endearment,” she said.

You’ve never said it to me before.

“It was my signal to Tucker that I knew that he was there to do his job, that there was nothing personal, not insulting in any way. I drop these words in my speech all the time,” she insisted.

At which point, I recalled for Mrs. Brown that after Sen. Barack Obama had referred to a female campaign reporter as “sweetie,” igniting a national debate over what is acceptable language between men and women in a professional setting, the Democratic candidate hours later left her a voicemail apologizing.

So, will you apologize to Mr. Bounds?

“No,” Mrs. Brown answered. “It’s one of the sad realities of the world that women can get away with calling men ‘honey,’ ‘baby,’ and ‘sweetie.’ ”

LONESOME DUBYA

The glossy cover of the autumn issue of “Foreign Policy” magazine carries a photograph of a somber-looking President Bush wearing a cowboy hat and bundled up in a coat and scarf on a cold winter’s day.

“Lonesome Cowboy: Why you’ll miss him when he’s gone” - or so the headline beside him reads.

Inside, the article by David Frum, the president’s former speechwriter and special assistant, writes that he “may be the most unpopular president in modern times: a reckless, unilateralist cowboy. But history will be kinder to George W. Bush [than] contemporary caricatures.”

Indeed, Mr. Frum explains why, after two terms, Mr. Bush “leaves behind much more than a defeated dictator in Iraq.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Mr. Frum identifies additional foreign-policy legacies; contends the war in Iraq has actually made Americans safer (he lists the many memorable terrorist attacks worldwide prior to the Iraqi war and the very few since); and finds it “unlikely” that the next president will radically revise Mr. Bush’s policies.

OBAMA, BUT …

“Leading political indicators suggest this race should produce a Democratic blow-out of historic proportions. Not since 1976, in the aftermath of Watergate, and maybe not since 1932, with America three years into an economic collapse, have Democrats had such a strong political wind at their backs.”

So observes Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director to Vice President Al Gore and now vice president of the Committee on the Present Danger.

Yet, Mr. Haas, in an opinion piece he sent to Inside the Beltway, realizes that “Americans know John McCain,” a “happy warrior” and “leading political figure for more than two decades; a man of considerable wit and charm; a former Vietnam POW whose national security credentials reassure many in an increasingly unsettled world; a maverick whose record of bipartisanship appeals to independents and even some liberals. …

“Americans overwhelmingly consider him the safer of the choices before them, and this ‘safety gap’ probably grows whenever Russia invades Georgia, Iran rattles a saber, or al Qaeda issues a threat.”

Similarly, Mr. Haas says, Americans “do not know [Barack] Obama, at least not the way they desire - perhaps because he is less a candidate than a political phenomenon; a man of rare eloquence whose words can seem vacuous upon second reading (‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for’); a self-styled force for ‘change’ who lacks a discernable worldview within which this change will occur (a visionary without a vision, if you will) … .”

Mr. Haas says with the contest as close as it is - with Mr. Obama consistently up no more than 2 to 4 points in national polls “and running only neck-and-neck in state polls that are more relevant for the Electoral College - reflects public uncertainty about the young, dashing but inexperienced Democrat.”

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washington times.com.

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