- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The party divide

The decline in support for the war in Iraq lies almost entirely inside the Democratic Party, New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.

“By a margin of 80-19, Democrats now say they oppose the decision to go to war. The margin among Republicans is exactly the reverse: 80 percent of GOPers support the war, while 19 percent disapprove,” Mr. Podhoretz said.

“This is not only a partisan divide. It’s a cultural divide. As the year 2004 ends, the rank and file of the Democratic Party has turned decisively and profoundly against the military effort in Iraq. And there is reason to believe it won’t be long before they turn on the military as well.

“Throughout the year, Democratic politicians have been trying to split the difference with the military — saying they support the troops, while opposing the war. But that kind of sophistry won’t stand.

“The military wants to fight this war. Democrats don’t. How long before Democrats decide that our men and women in uniform are just extensions of the president and party they detest — a bunch of warmongering, bloodthirsty and stupid imperialists?

“Democratic Party bottom-feeders — like the odd and unpleasant people who inhabit the comments sections on Web sites like dailykos.com and democraticunderground.com — have already long since started spewing their bile at our soldiers, sailors and Marines.

“Soon, however, the bottom feeders may rise to the surface, just as they did during the Vietnam War. These will be underground opinions no longer.”

Avoiding scandal

“George W. Bush is now facing the legacy of Richard M. Nixon,” Brendan Miniter writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Only two other presidents have won re-election since Tricky Dick resigned in disgrace amid the Watergate scandal in 1974 and both of them — Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — found their second terms mired in scandal. So what will be Mr. Bush’s fate two years on? Will he be well on his way to reforming Social Security and the tax code? Or will scandal consume his presidency too?” Mr. Miniter asks.

“The answer rests in the origins of the curse of the second term. Lackluster second terms pre-date Nixon, of course. George Washington’s first term was pivotal, but his second is most remembered only for his farewell address. James Madison’s second term saw the British burn the White House.

“But what changed with Nixon’s resignation is that journalists realized they could bring down a sitting president. It doesn’t matter now whether the corruption (and any bureaucracy as large as the federal government contains corruption) actually leads to the Oval Office. The knives are out and, electoral mandates notwithstanding, presidents are most vulnerable after they have a first term record to pick through.

“But no president is doomed to this fate. Republicans are of course deluding themselves if they think the media hounds aren’t out there sniffing for a scandal to howl about. And there are plenty of ‘scandals’ to be found. Abu Ghraib became an issue because many journalists thought, ah ha!, evidence was finally found that proved this White House was ready and willing to throw civil liberties to the wind. Every ‘torture memo’ revelation since the war on terror began has only confirmed the suspicion that the next Watergate story is out there and that it is somehow connected to the shadowy war against al Qaeda.

“In a perfect world, we’d now be talking about openness and transparency as a way of beating the curse. Yet for Mr. Bush, no matter how open he is, if the future is about tweaking the policies he already has in place to fight the war on terror, the media will eventually find a scandal that resonates.”

Asking questions

Republicans are demanding a list of voters in Washington state’s most populous county as the party considers a court challenge of Democrat Christine Gregoire’s razor-thin victory in the governor’s race, officials said Monday.

A hand recount put Mrs. Gregoire ahead by 130 votes out of 2.8 million cast. Previous counts had favored Republican Dino Rossi, a former state senator.

Chris Vance, state Republican Party chairman, said officials will decide whether to challenge the recount results after studying the voter rolls from King County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Seattle.

“We’re mostly posing questions,” he said. “King County is where we saw the votes changing. King County is the one county that was allowed to take ballots that were declared dead in November and bring them back to life in December.”

Democrats accused the Republicans of being on “a fishing expedition” and urged them to concede or risk damaging Mr. Rossi’s political future by dragging out an election already eight weeks old.

State officials will certify the statewide hand recount tomorrow, declaring Mrs. Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, the victor, the Associated Press reports.

The latest tally included 732 disputed ballots from King County, which the state Supreme Court last week ruled could be counted despite objections from Republicans. The ballots had been mistakenly thrown out because of problems scanning signatures into a computer.

Mr. Vance said any voter can contest the election within 10 days of certification.

“Overwhelmingly, from the grass roots of the party, the feeling is ‘Don’t give up. Keep fighting,’” he said.

Counting zories

Under a headline saying “Eat, Drink and Be Merry,” the Wall Street Journal opined: “If you are looking forward to doing more of the above before the year is out, you might want to take note of a proposal to mandate calorie counting in many restaurants. Talk about putting a damper on the holiday spirit.”

The newspaper, in an editorial, explained: “Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration’s Obesity Working Group issued its ‘Calories Count’ report urging the FDA to work with restaurants to disclose the number of calories in the products they sell. The program is voluntary and many chain restaurants have complied. A market incentive is that more and more health-conscious customers are demanding it.

“But that’s not good enough for some grinches in Congress. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro plan to re-introduce bills requiring chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets to list calorie counts either on menu boards or printed menus. And once that law went into effect? As sure as New Year’s resolutions follow holiday gorging, watch for ‘mislabeling’ lawsuits. Watch, too, for prices to go up; a legislative labeling mandate isn’t cost-free for restaurant owners.

“But all this is really beside the point. Yes, too many Americans are overweight. But this isn’t exactly a state secret. The solution to the obesity problem isn’t requiring restaurants to tell us that a glass of egg nog contains a gazillion more calories than a Diet Coke. It’s learning to say no to the egg nog.”

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

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