- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

They say if you put a live frog in a pot of cold water and turn the heat up slowly, the frog will be boiled before he knows what's happening to him. I hope President-elect Bush is noticing the rising water temperature, because I have never seen any previous president-elect treated with such brutal disdain by both the media and the opposition party.

Since Election Day the Democratic Party and its various interest group auxiliaries systematically have pounded away on two themes that Mr. Bush is not the legitimate president, and that Mr. Bush is a racist. Republicans are kidding themselves if they think these attacks are not taking a heavy toll. It is getting very hard to distinguish between "Saturday Night Live" and the evening news.

Just this week, the NBC Evening News featured a long interview between Tom Brokaw, Mr. Bush and Laura Bush as they wandered around Mr. Bush's Texas ranch. For past presidents, these pre-inauguration interviews have been a series of deferentially posed puff-ball questions. But two months of thematic assaults on Mr. Bush have created an atmosphere in which Mr. Brokaw felt free to let loose with every partisan charge.

Mr. Brokaw opened the interview by asking Mr. Bush whether he will want to hide under his bed covers when he gets up on Inauguration Day. Next, he asked the president-elect whether, given that he lost the popular vote, Mr. Bush was prepared to back-off his campaign promises. Mr. Brokaw then reminded Mr. Bush that "No president can govern without the consent of the people."

Then Mr. Brokaw told Mr. Bush that people are already saying that his nomination for attorney general is seen as a divisive gesture by African-Americans. This led to an exchange in which Mr. Bush had to assert that his attorney general nominee was not in favor of slavery. Mr. Brokaw then observed that Mr. Bush has "ignited a firestorm" among environmentalists and "those who believe in choice on abortion" with his nominees. This was followed with Mr. Brokaw quoting the U.S. Civil Rights Commission calling the election in Florida a "disaster."

Mr. Brokaw then implicitly accused Mr. Bush of hypocrisy by "running against Washington, and yet picking old Washington figures Rumsfeld, Cheney and Powell for high offices." Mr. Brokaw then suggested that if Mr. Bush invited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to a White House dinner people will think there was "a deal" with the Supreme Court. Mr. Brokaw followed that up with a question about Mr. Bush's daughters: "Governor, do you say to them, don't spend your college weekends the way I did?"

After this unprecedentedly scurrilous attack on the president-elect, the interview ended with the following exchanges:

Mr. Brokaw: "I wish you both the very best."

Mr. Bush: "Thank you."

Mrs. Bush: "Thank you so much."

I suppose that all the friendly questions were edited out of the broadcast version of the interview.

Mr. Bush is being demonized by the Democratic Party and the major media in almost exactly the same way they demonized my old boss Newt Gingrich before he was even sworn in as speaker of the House six years ago. The Bush team should be under no illusion: The personal and ideological attacks on Mr. Bush's nominees are really attacks on Mr. Bush.

When Mr. Bush has to deny, on national television, the preposterous charge that his nominee for attorney general is in favor of slavery, he is unintentionally sending a message to millions of Americans (and to viewers around the world) that he, George W. Bush, is a racist who appoints racists to high office. When Jesse Jackson and the left wing Civil Rights Commission are all over national television falsely accusing Governor Jeb Bush of running a campaign of anti-black intimidation in Florida, it is Mr. Bush who is the primary target of that blood libel.

When I wrote in this space two months ago that Al Gore's assault on Mr. Bush's election victory was placing democracy at peril, I had exactly these results in mind. Mr. Bush's mantle of legitimacy is being stripped off, exposing him to constant pummeling. President Clinton feels free to call Mr. Gore the victor. Mr. Brokaw feels free to suggest to Mr. Bush's face that he will be in the Oval Office as a result of a corrupt deal with the Supreme Court. Any lie, any calumny against Mr. Bush, will be considered fair game.

I predict that the first post-inaugural poll will show Mr. Bush to be held in lower esteem than any newly elected president in the history of polling. And these are only the first bitter sips from the chalice stirred up in Florida last November. Unless Mr. Bush can summon and soon a mighty counter-thrust against this deconstruction of his presidency, we will face the most vehement political disorder since the years leading up to the Civil War.

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