- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2003

Grassley's promise
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Finance Committee, denies that he left the Bush administration in the dark on a promise to two rebellious Republican senators.
Mr. Grassley told the senators, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and George V. Voinovich of Ohio, that in return for their votes to pass a budget plan, he would accept no more than a $350 billion tax cut in a House-Senate conference later this year.
"The top liaison for the White House is a fellow with the nickname 'Z.' I told Z [about the promise]. Z in turn told me that he told [Chief of Staff] Andy Card and told his boss. And so the top people at the White House knew about this arrangement," Mr. Grassley said yesterday on the ABC political talk show "This Week."
As for House leaders who favor a larger tax cut and think Mr. Grassley double-crossed them, the senator had this to say: "Well, of course, they're saying in the House that I didn't consult with them. For three weeks of negotiations, nobody in the House ever talked to me except Bill Thomas, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and he was not involved in the budget conference."
'Reformed drunk'
"Count me among those who believe the best way to promote economic growth is to further reduce marginal income tax rates," James A. Baker III writes in the Wall Street Journal.
"I say this with respect for serious critics of tax-rate reduction, who believe that a balanced budget should trump tax relief. I respect them because I once sincerely subscribed to the same fiscal theology. But I was wrong. That's why I often refer to myself on this issue as a 'reformed drunk.' The success of the tax-rate reductions we achieved during President Reagan's two terms in office sobered me up," said Mr. Baker, who served as chief of staff and Treasury secretary under Mr. Reagan and secretary of state under the first President Bush.
Mr. Baker said that after the Reagan tax cuts went into effect, "The results were nothing short of miraculous. In November 1982, the economy didn't just begin to grow, it began to boom. GDP growth for 1984 (7.3 percent) was the highest since 1951 and has not been matched since."
Mr. Baker added: "Those who oppose rate reductions recite the mantra of 'fiscal discipline.' They're right about deficits: They do matter. But they're wrong to sacrifice growth for fiscal discipline: We need both."
Powell's immunity
"Among critics of the Bush administration's foreign policy, the most common response to the military success in Iraq has been to applaud it, tepidly, while more loudly lamenting the diplomatic wreckage it has left in its wake," Ramesh Ponnuru writes in the latest issue of National Review.
"Our failure to win more allies among governments and more support among peoples has been blamed on President George W. Bush, on Vice President Dick Cheney, on Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, on second-tier officials such as Rumsfeld deputy Paul Wolfowitz, even on people entirely outside the government. But one person is escaping all blame for the administration's diplomatic failures: its top diplomat," Mr. Ponnuru said.
"Somehow, Secretary of State Colin Powell always manages to come out smelling like a rose. He emerged as a national hero from the first Gulf War, even though, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had opposed showing force to deter Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait and then resisted the use of force to undo the dictator's conquest. He is likely to rise in public esteem again now, in the aftermath of another popular war he tried hard to prevent. But while Powell is getting the applause, it's the administration's hawks who are getting the policies they want. He may project an image of strength, but his influence is weak.
"Powell's reputation reflects both a strength and a weakness. He is where he is today because of his charisma, his sterling personal qualities, and his genius at playing the Washington game. But he has never been associated with any brilliant military move or diplomatic breakthrough. His record as secretary of state continues the pattern of his career: He has been more successful in bolstering his position in Washington than in bolstering America's in the world."
Painful lesson
"One has to feel sorry for celebrities these days," David Hogberg writes at www.spectator.org.
"They are discovering that there may be limits to their boorish behavior, insofar as what the American public is willing to tolerate. To judge by her interview with VH1, Madonna is the latest to learn this unbearably painful lesson," Mr. Hogberg said.
"The recent controversy surrounding Madonna stemmed from the video to her new song 'American Life.' Early clips showed her prancing around in thinly disguised Nazi regalia in front of Old Glory. It ended with a President Bush look-alike lighting a cigar with a lighter in the shape a hand grenade.
"In the interview, Madonna informs us that she made the video to wake America up, to let us know 'that a real war is going on.' (You mean those bombs exploding on TV are real? Well, I'll be!)
"Apparently, though, the need to raise our collective consciousness really wasn't that important. In the revised version of the video that premiered after the interview, Madonna no longer prances in front of an American flag. She's still in the brown-shirt getup, but is now dancing in front of flags from all other nations. The American flag appears only briefly at the end. Gone too is the President Bush look-alike.
"Why the change? Madonna claimed that she intended for the original video to be released before the war with Iraq. But the war began before the video was finished. Given the war, the timing of was wrong. Presumably, the video would have created too much controversy.
"This is very odd coming from someone who has made her career courting controversy. Surely Madonna doesn't lack the intestinal fortitude to weather the media storm. The answer, it seems, is that she is afraid of being punished: … 'you know it's ironic we're fighting for democracy in Iraq because we ultimately aren't celebrating democracy here. Because anybody who has anything to say against the war or against the president or whatever is punished, and that's not democracy it's people being intolerant. And you know, everyone's entitled to their opinion, for or against, and that's what our constitutional rights are supposed to be, that we all have the freedom to express ourselves and voice our dissent if we have that.'
"Here in a nutshell is the classic modern-day misunderstanding of freedom: Freedom means not just the right to be free from government sanction, but also to be free from consequences."
Bush's itinerary
"Washington insiders are wondering if President Bush will go ahead with his plans to visit Russia and France in late May and early June," Anna Mulrine writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.
"Last week's cancellation of his trip to Ottawa May 5 was one indication of the president's continued pique toward the coalition of the unwilling, who undermined his efforts to win a United Nations sanction for the Iraq war. 'If they had hung tough in the beginning, the use of force might have been averted,' says a senior U.S. official.
"Odds are that Bush will go to St. Petersburg (to honor the city's founding) and Evian, France (for an economic summit), but show his displeasure by curtailing the visits as much as possible," the columnist said.
"Despite French President Jacques Chirac's 'businesslike' phone call to Bush last week, White House aides say the president is still miffed at what he considers Chirac's bull-headed stance against the war. But Bush is more forgiving of Russia's Vladimir Putin, with whom he feels a real kinship and whose country Bush considers vital to U.S. interests."

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