- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

With a war abroad and an economic downturn at home, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have struggled to present a show of unity to the general public.
What they say in private, amongst themselves when they think no one is looking, is another matter.
One only need surf over to a variety of web sites including Buzzflash, Bartcop, Democrats.com and others of the left-of-center variety to see the often-profanity laced vitriol, the derision with which the president and his administration are viewed.
These web sites belong to individuals and groups that are generally anonymous, certainly not elected officials in the public eye. Perhaps they should be given some latitude for their abrasive style of communication, as they are not accustomed to the niceties of life and language inside the Washington Beltway.
However, that same latitude should not be shown to elected officials, leading Democrats and their interest group allies who should, in fact, know better.
In an e-mail newsletter sent out on Nov. 30, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt wrote "While homeland security should not be a partisan issue, Republican leaders in Congress continue to resist efforts to craft a bipartisan proposal to eliminate threats and protect Americans from further attack."
On its face, it is hardly a bipartisan message itself. But more shocking is that Mr. Gephardt seems to be saying that, if America suffers another terror attack anytime soon, the fault lies with the Republicans because they will not agree to do things our way. If they would, he seems to imply, then Democrats would not be forced to oppose their initiatives.
The logic of such thinking is so bizarre that it might lead the philosopher Descartes to wish he could stop thinking.
Mr. Gephardt is not alone in his ham-handedness.
At the AFL-CIO convention in Las Vegas, John Sweeney, the president of the organization, told delegates "I think there is a conservative conspiracy going on in the Congress, especially the House of Representatives." This was followed later by Ron Richardson, executive vice president of an AFL-CIO affiliate who suggested that, "Somebody should paint a picture of a couple of these Republican leaders sitting on the knees of Santa Claus saying 'thank you for giving us everything we always wanted' and Santa Claus's face would be that of bin Laden."
So the leading voice of American labor believes that Republicans in Congress are engaged in a conspiracy, a criminal act. And a close associate thinks that it is okay to portray Republicans as being grateful for the September 11 terror attacks in New York in Washington.
This goes beyond mere political hyperbole, venturing dangerously close to if not into the realm of the morbid and the un-American.
And this does not even take into account the observation of AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson, who said, "We have not been taken down by the terrorist, nor will we be taken down by those politicians who don't care about working families."
As though Republicans, the target of her comment, have a moral or political equivalent to the 19 men who seized control of four commercial airliners and perpetrated the worst mass-murder in the history of America.
These are not mere nits being picked. These statements, comparing one of America's two dominant American political parties to international terror groups, should be well off-limits. And in general discourse they probably are. But it is clear that when they think no one is watching, the left sends their allies a very different message.
And it is right to call these matters to the attention of the public. Recall the outrage, deserved, over the Rev. Jerry Falwell's statements on "The 700 Club" as to where the blame for September 11 lay. And recall the outrage, undeserved, when House Majority Leader Dick Armey once referred to Bill Clinton as "Your president" on the floor of the House.
On issues big or little, serious or laughable, there are certain forces in American politics who are expert at picking fights and pretending outrage while seeming as innocent as an angelic schoolboy. Far too often, we miss the slingshot in the back pocket.
There is a class of people in the United States who refuse to accept as legitimate the election of George W. Bush and the Republican majority in the House. They will say almost anything and do almost anything to justify their feelings.
In a way, they are like some of the right who could never accept that Bill Clinton was president of the United States. These people would exploit any opportunity to try and bring him down and, though he was unusually helpful in giving them ammunition, the whole experience was, nevertheless, probably bad for America's political institutions.
Now there are those on the opposite side of the political fence who want to go there all over again. The constant rehash of the Florida balloting under ever changing rules and criteria, the subtle and not-so-subtle effort to portray the Republican leadership as the moral equivalents of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, and the flagrantly obstructionist nature with which the Democrats are treating many of the president's nominees should give everyone pause. This too is not good for the country. If it continues, it will remain to be seen if the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, can get away with the "who, us?" defense at the next election.

Peter Roff is national political analyst for United Press International.

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