- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Leftist nostalgia

“Every time America goes to war, at least if a Republican is president, the Democrat left works itself up into a frenzy, claiming that the conflict is going to be ‘another Vietnam,’” James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“It happened with the Gulf War, with Afghanistan and with the liberation of Iraq. As we noted in March, the tone of these warnings is typically not one of concern or fear, but of hope, even lust. The reason is simple but perverse: In Vietnam, America’s loss (and that of the South Vietnamese people) was the left’s triumph.

“And like an elderly ex-athlete boring everyone silly by going on endlessly about past glories, the left just won’t get over Vietnam. Probably never will, at least until the baby-boom cohort has passed from the scene and the conflict has ceased to be a living memory,” Mr. Taranto said.

“But lurid quagmire fantasies are hard to sustain in the face of lightning victory. So those on the left have changed their tack in recent weeks. Now Iraq isn’t another Vietnam, it’s another Watergate!

“This is what’s behind the ‘debate’ over whether the Bush administration ‘lied’ about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Those on the Democratic left think of Watergate as a feather in their cap. They brought down a president! Of course, they didn’t really bring down the president, though they helped; he brought himself down by countenancing and then covering up a crime. But left-wing mythology seems to be all about hoping for a recurrence of these decades-old victories.”

Leahy warning

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and a leader of the filibusters against two nominees to the federal bench, wrote President Bush last week asking him “to avoid a divisive confirmation fight” by consulting with Democrats before picking a nominee if a Supreme Court seat opens up this month.

“Mr. President, though the landscape ahead is sown with the potential for controversy and contention over vacancies that may arise on the Court, contention is avoidable, and consensus should be our goal,” Mr. Leahy wrote in a June 11 letter. “I would hope your objective will not be to send the Senate nominees so polarizing that their confirmations are eked out in narrow margins.”

Mr. Leahy referred to “Square Peg,” the book in which Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the judiciary panel, recalls suggesting to President Clinton that he nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer for smooth confirmation. Both were nominated and easily confirmed.

Mr. Leahy warned of the fallout if Mr. Bush nominated someone not to the liking of Democrats.

“This would come at a steep and gratuitous price that the entire nation would have to pay in needless division,” he wrote. “It would serve the country better to choose qualified candidates who can be broadly supported by the public and by the Senate.”

Deadline passes

California lawmakers missed a deadline to pass a state budget as Democrats and Republicans fought over how best to close a deficit that could reach $38.2 billion.

The Capitol in Sacramento remained largely empty as the Sunday deadline passed, with legislators spending the Father’s Day weekend with their families, the Associated Press reports.

Last week, a joint legislative committee approved a watered-down proposal that didn’t address any big issues, such as taxes.

The decisions over whether to raise taxes and by how much are expected to be made as early as this week by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and party leaders from the Senate and Assembly.

Republicans from both houses have said they won’t support tax increases. Mr. Davis has proposed tax increases and spending cuts.

“Two weeks ago, I thought we were on the verge of an arrangement; that we were very, very close,” Mr. Davis said Saturday in an interview with KCBS.

But Mr. Davis said Republican leader Jim Brulte’s threats to campaign against any Republican who voted to increase taxes had “a chilling effect on negotiations.”

Search continues

Pentagon officials say the search for a replacement for Victoria Clarke, the assistant defense secretary for public affairs, is continuing. The short list includes Pete Williams, the former Pentagon spokesman during the first Bush administration and now the NBC News Justice Department reporter.

Mrs. Clarke is leaving for personal reasons and will depart her E-Ring office on Friday. The resignation was first reported in The Washington Times’ Inside the Ring column Friday.

“I depart sadly because this has been the best professional experience of my life,” the former public relations executive said in a press release.

Mr. Williams said yesterday he has no plans to take the job and is happy covering Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Another candidate is said to be Lawrence DiRita, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s assistant, who most recently was dispatched to Baghdad to represent the secretary on the U.S. team setting up a new government.

Mr. DiRita is taking over Mrs. Clarke’s duties until a permanent replacement is found, the Pentagon said in a statement. The post requires Senate confirmation.

In other Pentagon-related developments, President Bush yesterday nominated retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker to the post of Army chief of staff, passing over active-duty generals in favor of a former commander of special operations.

The announcement by the Pentagon ended weeks of speculation over who would succeed Gen. Eric Shinseki, who retired from active duty last weekend.

Radio only

Democratic presidential candidates will participate in a radio-only debate in Iowa, it was announced yesterday.

The presidential forum will be sponsored by National Public Radio and the WOI Group, four radio stations operated by Iowa State University.

The forum, to be held in Des Moines, will take place Jan. 6, just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Neal Conan, host of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” will moderate the debate. It will be heard over at least 236 public radio stations around the country. Invitations to participate have been issued to all nine candidates and six already have accepted.

600,000 sold

Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir “Living History” has sold 600,000 copies in its first week and publisher Simon and Schuster said yesterday it was printing an extra 500,000 copies.

The unexpected velocity of sales means Simon and Schuster has already made back the $8 million advance paid to Mrs. Clinton, and the additional order will bring the total number of hardback copies in print in the United States to 1.5 million, Agence France-Presse reports.

The sales figures are something of a vindication for the publishers, whose decision to order an initial print run of 1 million copies had been questioned by many who felt political biographies had limited appeal.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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