- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

Strange 'journalist'

"Ponder this question: Has Bill Clinton watched pornographic videos in the past 20 years? We're not interested in knowing the answer, but imagine what our friends on the left would say about us if we were: We'd be 'Clinton-haters,' 'right-wing maniacs,' 'sexual McCarthyites.' We can't deny they'd have a point," James Taranto writes at OpinionJournal.com, the Web site of the Wall Street Journal.

"Somehow, though, these same folks consider it a high-minded matter of civic concern whether Clarence Thomas watched porn videos in the privacy of his home almost a fifth of a century ago.

"In their 1993 book, 'Strange Justice,' Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, then Wall Street Journal reporters (now with the New Yorker and the New York Times, respectively), made that trifling allegation. In a review of 'Strange Justice' for the American Spectator, David Brock declared that there was no evidence that Thomas 'ever rented one pornographic video, let alone was a habitual consumer of pornography.'

"A few years later, of course, Brock renounced his erstwhile allies on the right, and now he has a book to promote, 'Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative' (Crown Publishers), set for September release. So now Brock says he was lying; he claims he did have evidence that Thomas had rented porn videos. He also says, according to the New York Times, that he has 'disavowed' the 'premise' of his own best-selling book, 'The Real Anita Hill,' though he apparently still maintains everything in the book was factually accurate.

"Oh, dear, whom to believe? The Thomas-Hill dispute was a classic 'he said, she said' situation, but in this case, it's 'he said, he said.' Either Brock was lying in 1993 to further his career as a conservative journalist, or he's lying now to further his career as an ex-conservative ex-journalist. One thing is clear, though: Either way, David Brock is a liar …

"One other question: Why is Crown publishing a 'nonfiction' book by a confessed fabricator? What's next, memoirs by Stephen Glass and Janet Cooke?"

Riordan's boosters

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who leaves office Sunday, was in Washington on Tuesday and met with White House political guru Karl Rove and, in a separate session, "with 10 Republican members of Congress who have formed an informal committee to draft Riordan to run for governor," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"They were very vocal in wanting me to run for governor, and I'm flattered," Mr. Riordan said. "But I'm still mayor for five days, and I'll look at it long and hard after I'm through being mayor."

Mr. Riordan declined to acknowledge that Mr. Rove was in the room when he met with White House aides, calling it a private session, but others confirmed that Mr. Rove was present, reporters Michael Finnegan and Mark Z. Barabak said.

Hillary's new digs

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is in the middle of an office-space scuffle — infuriating Republicans who claim she has unfairly grabbed extra Senate suites," the New York Post reports.

"The issue — which until now had remained private — has even threatened the delicate power-sharing negotiations that started after Sen. Jim Jeffords defected from the GOP," reporter Vincent Morris writes on the newspaper's Web site, citing unidentified sources.

"'The Democrats have had the gavel for two weeks and the first thing they do is give Hillary more space,' fumed a Republican aide.

"Clinton is the only Democrat in the Senate to get extra room since her party took control last month.

"Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who awarded two extra rooms to Clinton, insisted she is not getting special treatment.

"'Clinton was entitled to the rooms earlier this year, but was denied them by vindictive Republicans when they controlled the office-space allotment,' Dodd said.

"'Her space is her space based on what a senator from her size state should get,' said Dodd."

Start over at FBI

The White House has begun a new FBI director search after telling the front-runner, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller, that the president wants other choices, Nicholas Horrock of United Press International wrote last night, citing administration and law enforcement sources.

Though Mr. Mueller was touted as the likely nominee as late as Friday, he was sharply opposed by some in the Justice Department, according to a former senior official there.

Some years after Mr. Mueller left an assistant attorney general's post, a Justice Department Inspector General's report criticized the management of Criminal Division operations and people he had hired, the official told UPI.

White House officials determined over the weekend that President Bush needed a better candidate to replace Louis J. Freeh, an administration source told UPI.

This same source said it was Mr. Mueller who ordered the prosecutors in the Robert P. Hanssen spy case to ask for the death penalty, contrary to Justice Department policy since the 1950s.

"Asking for the death penalty in spying cases is counterproductive," this former official said. "What you are trying to do is to get the turncoat to tell you what damage he's done."

This former official, who asked that his name not be disclosed, said Mr. Mueller's reorganization of the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office was heavy-handed and that he "demeaned and denigrated many employees." Repeated calls to Mr. Mueller yesterday were not returned, Mr. Horrock wrote.

Bush at 60 percent

President Bush's approval rating is 60 percent in the latest Reuters/Zogby poll, down 3 percentage points from two months ago.

The Reuters survey released yesterday, the first since April, contradicted a recent New York Times survey, trumpeted on that newspaper's front page, that claimed Mr. Bush's standing among the American people had fallen precipitously in recent months.

The Reuters/Zogby survey of 610 voters conducted June 24-26 found 60 percent viewed him either very favorably or somewhat favorably. Thirty-six percent viewed him somewhat unfavorably or very unfavorably, up 1 point from April.

The poll carried a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Since the previous survey, Republicans have passed an ambitious tax-cutting package sponsored by Mr. Bush, under which millions of voters will receive rebates in the summer, but that achievement has yet to have an effect on the president's standing.

Asked regardless of how they voted in last year's election whether they were happy today that Mr. Bush was president, 52 percent said they were, but 37 percent said the nation would have been better off under Democrat Al Gore. Eleven percent were unsure.

Reversible tax cuts

"To be sure, while Republicans controlled Congress, Bush was able to achieve a huge victory in winning the tax cut. But because so many of its provisions do not phase in for years and then, in the final year of the legislation, mysteriously vanish — the law does not lock in fiscal realities as dangerously as it might have," Paul Starr writes in the liberal magazine, the American Prospect.

"Though it gives Bush 'ownership' of what happens to the economy in the next few years, the slow phase in (and phaseout) makes it likely that the tax cuts will still be on the table in the next two elections. In what budgeters call the 'out' years, the case for rewriting the legislation should gain force because the cuts that come toward the end notably, the elimination of the estate tax are particularly regressive.

"Bush is going to have to get re-elected to make the tax cuts stick, and as the costs grow, he may well find himself defending an increasingly untenable position," he said.

"None of this guarantees that Democrats will win the 2004 election, but it does mean that the worst damage done so far by the Republicans is reversible."

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