- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Root of the problem

Liberals need to face up to the terrorist threat, just as the leading liberals of the time faced up to communist totalitarianism in 1947 at a meeting at the Willard Hotel in Washington, writes Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic magazine.

“Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not ‘been fundamentally reshaped’ by the experience,” Mr. Beinart said.

“On the right, a ‘historical re-education’ has indeed occurred — replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s — a collection of domestic interests and concerns.

“On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against al Qaeda — even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

“When liberals talk about America’s new era, the discussion is largely negative — against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America’s worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the Cold War, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions — most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn — that do not put the struggle against America’s new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world.

“As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign-policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sit a … grass roots that views America’s new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.”

Job applicants

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the new leader of Senate Democrats, says he has been besieged by candidates to head the Democratic National Committee, including former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Mr. Reid told the New York Times that he has heard from Ray Mabus, the former Mississippi governor; Wellington E. Webb, the former mayor of Denver; and Leo J. Hindery Jr., the telecommunications executive, as well as Mr. Dean.

The Nevadan denied that he opposes Mr. Dean.

“I haven’t made any statements about favoring or not favoring Howard Dean,” Mr. Reid told reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

In fact, Mr. Reid said he will meet with Mr. Dean either today or tomorrow.

Conservative favorite

Conservatives are pressing for President Bush to choose former Sen. Phil Gramm as the next Treasury secretary, even though the current occupant of that office, John W. Snow, has yet to indicate he is leaving.

“The former Texas senator isn’t close to Bush, but the Republican right believes it has little to show from the Cabinet shuffle so far,” Wall Street Journal reporter John Harwood wrote Friday in that newspaper’s Washington Wire feature.

“He also might bring more lobbying clout than Snow, who some lawmakers complain has been ineffectual,” Mr. Harwood said.

“Facing ‘giant tasks’ on tax and Social Security overhaul, ‘we have to be geared up,’ says the Heritage Foundation’s Dan Mitchell. Other prospects if Snow departs: White House Chief of Staff [Andrew] Card and budget director [Josh] Bolten. Insiders say it is unlikely Bush would tap [Fed Chairman Alan] Greenspan.”

Frist’s reply

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday that the government should review federally funded sexual-abstinence programs, under fire from Democrats who say they contain false and misleading medical information.

The programs, which get $170 million from Congress this year, teach young people the benefits of abstaining from sex until marriage. By law, they are not allowed to discuss any benefits of birth control or condoms in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

A report last week by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, charged that 11 of the 13 most widely used programs contain misinformation. He said they underestimate the effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy and the spread of disease, exaggerate the prevalence of emotional and physical distress following abortion, blur science and religion or get fundamental scientific facts wrong.

Asked about these charges, Mr. Frist, a doctor who often calls on his medical expertise, did not directly address the issues raised. But he said the programs should be reviewed, the Associated Press reports.

“Of course they should be reviewed,” Mr. Frist said on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s in part our responsibility to make sure that all of these programs are reviewed.”

Mr. Frist touted the benefits of a more comprehensive approach backed by President Bush in the global fight against AIDS called “ABC” for abstinence, being faithful and use of condoms.

“Whether it’s abstinence or whether it’s a condom or whether it is better education on the infectivity of how washing hands in terms of the flu, all of these are public health challenges that we need in terms of better education,” Mr. Frist said.

Book corner

“Maybe it’s Potomac flu, but it seems that most of Washington is ready to forget the 2004 political race and move on. If some folks have their way, though, the bitter election year will still be prominent in the rearview mirror,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“That’s because several authors are lining up to hawk books about their experiences. Alexandra Kerry, the senator’s daughter and a moviemaker, is shopping her first-person story to New York publishers, industry sources say. Though not a tell-all, it would complement the film she is making about her father’s campaign,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Next, departing Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie is writing a book on political strategy and how it helped President Bush win re-election. His title: ‘How We Win and Why We Must.’ Clinton-era attack dog James Carville is also busy scribbling a blueprint for victory. And if the 2004 race isn’t your thing, there’s California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s political romance-thriller. She’s been writing the book since 1998 with advice from best-selling author Richard North Patterson — and she assures us it’s fiction.”

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

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