- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

Don't be fooled by the perpetual smirk on Paul Begala's face when he appears on CNN's "Crossfire" program. Politically speaking, these have to be very unhappy times for the veteran Democratic Party hatchetman. Less than two years ago, he was working for President Clinton, the all-time master of propaganda and political spin. But these days Mr. Begala is relegated to cleaning up after the top Democratic office-holder in the country, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Unfortunately for Mr. Begala and his fellow Democrats, Mr. Daschle has a disconcerting tendency to stick his foot in his mouth when he tries to discredit President Bush's conduct of the war on terror. In February, for example, he questioned Mr. Bush's perfectly accurate statement that radical states like Iran, Iraq and North Korea constitute an "axis of evil" that must be stopped. A few weeks later, Mr. Daschle complained about the unpleasant reality that "there is a certain open-endedness" to the president's campaign against terror. Then, in an appearance Sunday on ABC-TV's "This Week," the majority leader suggested, in effect, that Washington has no business moving against Saddam Hussein until it is able to "stabilize" Afghanistan, a place where bitter ethnic and tribal warfare has raged for centuries. That, of course, is a prescription for paralysis, which would leave the Iraqi dictator free to continue his efforts to produce more deadly weapons of mass destruction. Had Mr. Daschle been around during World War II, would he have objected to U.S. participation in D-Day on the grounds that we were still fighting the Japanese?

Since Mr. Begala apparently finds it impossible to stop Mr. Daschle from running off at the mouth, he's evidently decided to do the next best thing: intimidate anyone who disagrees with Mr. Daschle into silence. Appearing Monday on "Crossfire," Mr. Begala declared that "the Republican right, under the sponsorship of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, has been engaged in a strategy they call demonizing Daschle. This, despite the fact that Tom Daschle was the victim of an anthrax attack by someone who wants to kill him."

Mr. Begala's smear campaign is not the first time in recent months that liberal partisans have tried linking conservatives to the sending of anthrax-tainted letters to Mr. Daschle last year. In January, National Public Radio ran a slanderous "report" asserting that a conservative pro-family group was behind the anthrax letters. Mr. Begala has now joined NPR in the ethical sewer.

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