Monday, May 28, 2001

Nasty Republicans
Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory in recent writings has depicted congressional Republicans as a bunch of snarling junkyard dogs in contrast to those purring pussycats on the Democratic side of the aisle who never complain when a colleague wanders from party orthodoxy.
Miss McGrory did it again yesterday, without realizing that she was being directly contradicted on the front page of her own newspaper. Vermont Sen. James Jeffords, who announced last week he is abandoning the Republicans, “is in for extreme culture shock,” Miss McGrory said.
“He leaves a caucus that was run like a military school, where names were taken and scores kept, for an adult day care center under the benign guidance of a sweet-tempered South Dakotan who wouldnt dream of chewing out a fellow senator. Tom Daschle is small and rumpled, unlike Mississippis [Trent] Lott, the perfectly coiffed, imposing, about-to-be-deposed Republican chief. Daschle is notoriously respectful of dissenters.”
Meanwhile, in a front-page story, reporters John F. Harris and Dan Balz wrote that Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, was shaken when he phoned Mr. Daschle on May 11 to report that he had worked out a tax-cut compromise with his Republican counterpart on the Finance Committee.
“The conversation that followed, according to people familiar with the call from both ends, left both men briefly thinking their relationship would be permanently marred. Not prone to shouting, Daschle icily told Baucus he had abandoned his colleagues and assured him that people would remember his breach for a long time.”
Just the day before, Mr. Baucus had been lashed by colleagues in his own caucus “in unusually personal terms,” the reporters said. “One by one, fellow Democrats lit into Baucus … ” and Mr. Daschle told the astonished Montanan he was not authorized to cut a deal.

Democrat vs. Democrat

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy wants to lead the charge against conservative judicial nominees, but the Vermont Democrat instead could end up focusing on the price of radishes and other farm issues as the chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
Sen. Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat who is set to become majority leader, says that even though Mr. Leahy is now the high-profile ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, has seniority.
Wolf Blitzer, questioning Mr. Daschle Saturday on CNNs “Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields,” said: “There is some behind-the-scenes fighting apparently already going on. Patrick Leahy has said to CNN that he wants to be — expects to be — the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Hes the ranking Democrat, though Joe Biden is now telling us, through a spokesman, he, too, is thinking about becoming the chairman. He has seniority over Patrick Leahy. Who is going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee?”
Mr. Daschle replied: “Well, Wolf, thats not a matter I have anything to say about. Thats clearly a matter of seniority. Senator Biden, obviously, has the first choice. And if he chooses to accept that responsibility, then Senator Leahy would be the chairman of Agriculture, and [Iowa] Senator [Tom] Harkin would be without a chairmanship. So it has a chain reaction, and I dont know, at this point, whether either senator has made up their minds.”

Time for a vacation

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman grew increasingly hysterical over the Bush tax cut as it wound its way through Congress, but the columnist appears to have come completely unglued now that the legislation has actually gained final approval. In his column yesterday, Mr. Krugman called for the incarceration of all who voted for the legislation.
Mr. Krugman, noting that the tax cutters made the bill fit into the budget resolution by assuming that all the tax cuts would expire in 2010, said: “Need I point out that absolutely nobody who supports this tax bill thinks of it as a temporary measure, to be canceled at the end of nine years? This is white-collar crime, pure and simple. We should call in the Securities and Exchange Commission, and send the whole crew — Democrats like Senator John Breaux and Senator Max Baucus as well as their Republican partners in crime — to a minimum-security installation somewhere unpleasant.”
Mr. Krugman was so apoplectic that he even ripped into Vermont Sen. James Jeffords, who last week became a liberal hero by bolting from the Republican Party and setting the stage for a Democratic takeover of the Senate.
“One last point: We should be aware of what a huge disservice Senator James Jeffords has just done the nation,” Mr. Krugman said. “As a gesture of gentlemanly courtesy, he delayed the shift of Senate control from the Republican Party until the tax bill went through. The result is an abomination. Should a gentleman aid and abet his colleagues in fraud?”

Torricellis woes

Yesterdays New York Post featured the following headlines: “Torch Is Toast. Feds: We Have Enough Evidence to Indict New Jersey Senator Bob Torricelli.”
NBCs Tim Russert, host of “Meet the Press,” noted the Post story yesterday and asked Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat and incoming majority leader, whether he was worried that Mr. Torricelli might have to leave the Senate, handing control back to the Republicans.
“Well, first of all, as to the story, Id say consider the source,” Mr. Daschle said. “Secondly, I dont have any expectation that Senator Torricelli is going to be indicted. I think hes going to be cleared. I really believe that he is going to be able to make his case, both legally and politically. I have every expectation Senator Torricellis going to be re-elected next year.”
When Mr. Russert pointed out that the source for the story was federal investigators, Mr. Daschle more or less repeated his first answer.

An old strategy

Veteran Clintonistas James Carville and Paul Begala, writing in the New York Times yesterday, seemed to suggest that Democrats should respond to the Bush tax cuts passed Saturday in the same way that Democrats responded to Ronald Reagans tax cuts in the 1980s: boost spending and run up a huge deficit.
Of course, Mr. Carville and Mr. Begala would not be so impolitic as to say that directly. Instead, they claim to believe that increased spending forced upon President Bush by the newly Democratic Senate would cause the Republicans to reconsider much of their tax-cut handiwork.
“There is enormous risk in this strategy: If Republicans pass the spending programs but defeat attempts to reduce the tax cut, we will be plunged back into deficits,” the two men said. “But better to risk the deficits than the reality of an emaciated and emasculated national government for decades… . “
This was too much even for the Times liberal editorial page, which advised Senate Democrats to attempt to build coalitions “rather than the bellicose partisanship advocated by James Carville and Paul Begala on todays Op-Ed page.”

Gen. Clark’s future

“Arkansas politicos are pondering the future of Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme commander,” Margaret Mannix writes in U.S. News & World Report.
“Insiders say Clark, who is a consultant for Stephens Group in Little Rock, is preparing a political run as a Republican. Less clear: what office hed campaign for. At a recent Republican fund-raiser, he heralded Ronald Reagans Cold War actions and George Bushs foreign policy. He also talked glowingly of current President Bushs national security team. Absent from the praise list — his former boss, ex-Commander in Chief Bill Clinton.”

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