- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2004

They’re everywhere

Although some liberals believe that a neoconservative cabal has taken over the White House, if not the world, this column was surprised to learn that those devilishly clever neoconservatives have infiltrated even the liberal New York Times.

Howell Raines, who was forced out as the newspaper’s editor last year during the Jayson Blair scandal, writes in the May issue of the Atlantic Monthly about a number of problems he confronted during his tenure, and says this:

“Another disturbing development, for which I was unprepared, was that a small enclave of neoconservative editors was making accusations of ‘political correctness’ in order to block stories or slant them against minorities and traditional social-welfare programs.”

The V-word

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy says Iraq has become “George Bush’s Vietnam,” and that’s reason enough for him to lose the upcoming election.

In mentioning the V-word, Mr. Kennedy, the senior Senate colleague from Massachusetts to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, becomes the first major surrogate for the candidate to equate Iraq to the earlier conflict, although other Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, have hinted at the equation.

Mr. Kennedy said Mr. Bush “gave al Qaeda two years — two whole years — to regroup and recover,” and that has given the terrorist network time to plant new cells in countries throughout the world.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution yesterday, Mr. Kennedy expanded that purported international policy failure to Mr. Bush’s domestic policy, drawing an unflattering parallel between Mr. Bush’s conduct and that of President Nixon.

“This president has now created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon. He has broken the basic bond of trust with the American people,” Mr. Kennedy said.

No respect

“Friday’s report of roaring job numbers for March … was good news that even the chattering classes couldn’t deny,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“Then again, give them a day or two, and they’ll have us back in Hooverville. Like Rodney Dangerfield, this is the recovery that can’t get no respect,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

Today’s unemployment rate of 5.7 percent is close to the level that President Clinton boasted about when he sought re-election in 1996. Meanwhile, inflation has fallen by a full percentage point in the past eight years. … President Bush’s policies should be enjoying at least a modicum of respect.

“Instead, the media have done a terrific job of convincing everybody that these are the worst of times.”

A poll by the American Research Group in mid-March found that 44 percent of Americans thought the country was still in a recession, which is strange when you consider that the last recession ended in November 2001 and for the last two quarters of 2003, the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 6.1 percent, the fastest in 20 years, the newspaper said.

The Journal concluded that the pessimism is “fed by Democrats who want to retake the White House.”

“But it’s also flogged by a media that can’t seem to admit that the real news of the past three years is how well the U.S. economy has weathered the shocks of a huge stock-market blow-off, September 11, business scandals and the long prelude to war in Iraq.”

The newspaper added: “Still and all, by November, the American people will have had ample time to figure out the good news behind this smoke screen of negativity.”

Looking backward

“Today we are engaged in the wrong debate,” New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

“The brouhaha about whether the new Bush administration treated the threat of al Qaeda as ‘important’ versus ‘urgent’ is history almost as ancient as whether FDR did enough to avert Pearl Harbor,” Mr. Safire said.

“The you-should-have-known inquisition, with this week’s target Condoleezza Rice, is surrogate for a more contentious backward glance: Did concern about missile defense and the refusal of Saddam to permit U.N. inspections somehow keep us from preventing 9/11?

“Doves opposed to the overthrow of Saddam — who had earlier argued that attacking al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan would lead to quagmire — have found a bellicose rationale for their antiwar stance. It is that these military actions against terror states undermined a more limited ‘war’ on terrorist cells.

“Thus we are rearguing the debate of the year before last: Should we have responded to the 9/11 outbreak of terror by taking military action, or should we have continued the manifestly ineffective responses to the lesser terror attacks of the 1990s?”

Hispanic nail-biter

“Hispanics are now America’s largest minority group, but Al Sharpton’s news clippings alone prove how much more attention is paid to black politics over Hispanic,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“That’s one reason the defeat of Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in a Democratic primary in Texas hasn’t gotten more coverage. Another reason is that Henry Cuellar, the winner by 203 votes in a bitterly contested recount last week, is the kind of Hispanic politician liberal reporters can’t always understand: a thoughtful moderate who believes in working across party lines and who actually endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2000,” Mr. Fund said.

“The race isn’t completely over. Mr. Rodriguez is charging that the recount in the March 9 primary election is tainted by the discovery of more than 300 uncounted ballots in Zapata County, a Cuellar stronghold on the Mexican border. The incumbent charges voter fraud and has filed suit to overturn the election.

“There is certainly a long history of incompetence and chicanery in Texas border counties, most infamously Ballot Box 13, which saved Lyndon B. Johnson’s political career in 1948 after it mysteriously turned up with just enough votes for him to win a Senate seat.

“This year, there may have been fraud on both sides. Last month, officials in San Antonio, an area Mr. Rodriguez carried with 80 percent of the vote, caught a total of 42 applications for mail-in ballots from dead people.”

Houghton to leave

Rep. Amo Houghton, an institution in upstate New York politics, has told fellow Republicans that he will not run for re-election, the Associated Press reported last night.

Sources within the state Republican Party told AP that Mr. Houghton, 77, has spoken to GOP officials in Washington and New York state about his plans and has told them he does not intend to seek a 10th term.

An announcement by Mr. Houghton was scheduled for this morning in Corning, N.Y., followed by two days of visits with constituents to explain his decision.

Aides cautioned that Mr. Houghton, the former chief executive officer of Corning Glass Works, made similar private statements as recently as four years ago and eventually decided to continue.

In his 18 years in Congress, he displayed a moderate bent and became a member of the “Republican Main Street Partnership,” a group generally voting as fiscal conservatives and social liberals.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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