- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2009

‘EVIL’ PROTESTERS

“Remember when polite society treated a politician’s use of the word ‘evil’ as a sign that the old boy was dangerously lacking upstairs?” Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn writes.

“We saw it in 1983, when Ronald Reagan famously used the word in a speech to describe the Soviet empire. What a rube! New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis spoke for the smart set when he wondered what Soviet leaders must think: ‘What confidence can they have in the restraint of an American leader with such an outlook?’

“We saw it again in 2002, when George W. Bush characterized North Korea, Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as an ‘axis of evil.’ Tom Daschle, a Democrat and then Senate majority leader, warned that ‘we’ve got to be very careful with rhetoric of that kind’; former President Jimmy Carter called it ‘overly simplistic and counterproductive’; and comedian Will Ferrell parodied it on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ …

“With all this history, you would think Sen.Harry Reid (D., Nev.) had ample warning. Nevertheless, the Senate majority leader invoked the e-word himself last week at an energy conference in Las Vegas, where he accused those protesting President Barack Obama’s health care proposals of being ‘evilmongers.’ So proud was he of this contribution to the American political lexicon that he repeated it to a reporter the next day and noted the phrase was ‘an original.’

“And then - nothing. No thundering rebuke from the New York Times. No outburst from Mr. Carter. In fact, it’s hard not to notice that the good and gracious people who instinctively recoil at words like ‘evil’ or ‘un-American’ (the preferred term of Mr. Reid’s counterpart in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi) have all been silent,” Mr. McGurn said.

TORT REFORM

Bob Beckel, a longtime Democratic operative and now a political pundit, says that in order to save Democratic health care legislation, President Obama needs to reverse course and come out in favor of limits on medical malpractice awards.

“It won’t be easy. We Democrats have benefited mightily from the trial lawyers’ support and vice versa, but it’s time for these boys and girls to put some skin in the health care reform game and accept caps on pain-and-suffering malpractice awards,” Mr. Beckel wrote in an article published Tuesday at www.real clearpolitics.com.

“Why? Because Democrats advocating medical tort reform will fundamentally change the health care reform debate and in the process may save universal health care legislation.

“Universal health care has been our fight for 50 years. It is ingrained in our DNA, and we are close. There are no guarantees, but Democrats offering tort reform will confound the Republicans, take away one of their most potent arguments, and put us back on the offensive. If that means throwing some trial lawyers under the bus, so be it.

“Why haven’t we talked about tort reform during this entire debate? Because we haven’t wanted to bite one of the biggest hands that feed us. That substantial and legitimate disagreement over the effects of medical malpractice awards on health care costs is another. And there is our childlike fear the trail lawyers will abandon us.

“On that last point, let me be brutally pragmatic. The trial lawyers won’t abandon us because they have nowhere else to go.”

DAMAGED BRAND

“The AP account of AARP’s membership loss as a result of throwing in behind rationing of medical care for seniors - otherwise known as Obamacare - swallows AARP’s spin completely,” Hugh Hewitt writes at www.townhall .com.

” ‘Nothing unusual here, move along’ says the AARP.

“Perhaps that is true, but the damage to the AARP brand is deep and it will last because all across America seniors are watching their alleged ‘voice’ speak mostly about selling them out in the cause of serving a hard-left agenda by a hard-left president and Congress,” Mr. Hewitt said.

“This isn’t why the average American joins AARP. The deeper damage comes from products not sold, members not enrolled and services not solicited or accepted. Real reporting would look at the long-term membership trends at AARP and discover what percentage of eligible Americans have actually joined in years past and whether, just as the Baby Boom moves massively into its retirement years, AARP has picked exactly the wrong moment to drop the veil and reveal itself as part of the left side of the Beltway establishment.

“Two months ago if anyone thought about AARP at all, it was as a nonpartisan service provider which, on occasion, would rally its troops on the side of larger slices of the pie for senior citizens. It took decades to build that reputation, and it is shattered in the space of weeks.”

PANETTA’S MISTAKE

CIA Director Leon Panetta stunned Washington earlier this summer by disclosing, in an emergency closed-door briefing to Congress, that for the last eight years, the agency he now runs illegally concealed a secret terrorist-assassination program,” Joseph Finder writes at www.the dailybeast.com.

“The reaction was predictably explosive. The House intelligence oversight panel launched a major investigation. Here was official confirmation, from the very top, that the CIA in the Bush years had been flagrantly and systematically violating the National Security Act of 1947.

” ‘If we briefed Congress on every single foreign intelligence collection activity,’ one former CIA director tells me, ‘we’d be a very small intelligence agency attached to a massive congressional briefing agency.’

“But according to a half-dozen sources, including several very senior, recently retired CIA officials, clandestine-service officers, and Cabinet-level officials from the Bush administration, the real story is at once more innocent - Panetta was mistaken; no law was broken - and far more troubling: an inexperienced CIA director, unfamiliar with how his vast, complicated agency works, unable to trust senior officials within his own agency, and desperate to keep his hands clean, screwed up.

“The Daily Beast has learned that shortly after his electrifying June 24 disclosure, Panetta spoke personally with each of his three predecessors - George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden - and only then realized the mistake he’d made about the program,” Mr. Finder said.

“An innocent mistake, but the consequences of his gaffe, which he’s unable to admit without damaging his own reputation further, will likely subject U.S. intelligence capabilities to unnecessary and intrusive oversight for years to come.”

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

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