- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Judging from his whiny performance on several weekend news shows, Senate Majority Leader and reputed presidential aspirant Tom Daschle just doesn't understand the wisdom of quitting when he's behind. Mr. Daschle, who only last month objected to President Bush's characterization of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" (only to back away from those remarks after the political heat became too great), was at it again last Thursday, expressing his "concern" about that the war on terror might take too long.

Appearing three days later on "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Daschle stuck his foot in his mouth yet again, complaining that the administration had failed to inform Congress about the existence of a "shadow government," reported Friday by The Washington Post. The Post's account said that since September 11, 100 senior civilian government managers have been working at two secret, secure locations somewhere on the East Coast. Their job would be to ensure that essential government functions continue in the event of a nuclear strike or some other form of catastrophic attack on Washington. Just about every sentient person over age 12 had already figured out that such a contingency plan probably existed.

But Mr. Daschle said he was "surprised" to learn of the existence of such a government, adding that, while the purpose of such a program was "laudable," the administration's handling of the situation was "a pretty profound illustration" of its unwillingness to share information about the war on terrorism. "There are two other branches of government that are central to the functioning of our democracy," Rep. William Delahunt chimed in. "I would hope the speaker and the minority leader would at least pose the question, 'What about us?' "

Mr. Daschle and his friends have lots and lots of questions about the war. "I think the time has come for us to be asking a lot more questions," he said Sunday. He is demanding that the administration fork over "the operational information that would allow us to make as good a judgment about the overall success of the operation, and the need for the resources that the president has requested." This, Mr. Daschle added snidely, "is a constitutional obligation, that isn't just something nice to know. It's something we need to know." Somehow, he neglected to ask for the exact number of artillery pieces and meals ready-to-eat that will be necessary to win the war.

One of Mr. Daschle's Senate colleagues, John Kerry of Massachusetts, accused Republican critics of Mr. Daschle of seeking to "muzzle legitimate inquiry" under "the false cloak of patriotism." But nobody is questioning the patriotism of Messrs. Daschle or Kerry. Now, their judgment is another matter. The reality is that these modern-day McGovernites want to silence anyone who questions their carping criticism of the president's efforts to run the war.

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