- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

War on pork

“After suffering through weeks of whining from both sides of the aisle about bloated budgets and deficits, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is pushing a remarkable reform aimed squarely at double-talking lawmakers who regularly feast at the trough while decrying overspending,” Paul Bedard reports in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“From now on, [Mr. DeLay] says, all pork projects must be ‘justified.’ What’s more, he’s open to a freeze on nondefense spending. Technically speaking, DeLay put it this way during a budget briefing last week: ‘I think we need to take a very hard look at unauthorized programs and see which ones need to be funded and which ones should not be funded.’ Translation: ‘Prove the pork is needed,’ says an aide. In reality, he added, most pork can be justified, so it’s the silly fat added to appropriations bills at the last minute that would be spotlighted.

“‘This means no more stupid pork projects.’ And slicing pork instead of other gimmicks would show voters that the GOP is serious about counting budget calories, says the insider. In fact, we hear, DeLay would like to see an ‘anti-pork war,’ with both sides vowing to eat less.”

Rush to judgment

“John Kerry was annoyed,” Time magazine’s Joe Klein writes at www.time.com.

“‘I need some food, guys,’ he huffed at staff, in a moment captured by ABC News. ‘I can’t thrive on nothing.’ But then, everyone associated with the Democratic primaries seemed slightly annoyed last week. And flu-ridden and exhausted and discombobulated by a hypercompressed schedule that forced sleepless, instantaneous decisions about the most basic political issues — scheduling, spending and, for some, quitting,” Mr. Klein said.

“A strange existential distortion had taken hold of the process. It seemed near an end without ever having crystallized. The candidates had debated ceaselessly without having a single legitimate debate, one that would have directly tested the two or three finalists.

“Party chair Terry McAuliffe was thrilled that the battle was nearly over. But why rush to end a good thing? The primaries have revivified the party, but the Democrats may now be left with a candidate who has not been completely vetted or honed for the fall campaign, with a party base of lemmings who never had the opportunity to consider their choices and, worst of all, with six long and empty months to fill before the public tunes in to the general election after Labor Day.”

Echo of a ‘scream’

“It probably means little now to Howard Dean, but CNN’s top executive believes his network overplayed the infamous clip of Dean’s ‘scream’ after the Iowa caucuses,” Associated Press television writer David Bauder reports.

“‘It was a big story, but the challenge in a 24-hour news network is that you try to keep all of your different viewers throughout the day informed without overdoing it,’ said Princell Hair, CNN’s general manager.

“The breathtaking media explosion turned the former Democratic presidential front-runner into a punch line and arguably hastened his campaign’s free fall. It’s also an instructive look at how television news and entertainment works today,” Mr. Bauder said.

“Whatever handwringing there may be in retrospect — and there’s only a little — comes with a sense that repeats are inevitable.

“‘It was unfair,’ said Joe Trippi, Dean’s former campaign manager, who lost his job in the fallout. ‘It was totally unfair. I don’t think there was any question about it.’

Mr. Trippi accepts that the footage was newsworthy, but he figured it was a one-day story.

“Instead, the cable and broadcast news networks aired Dean’s Iowa exclamation 633 times — and that doesn’t include local news or talk shows — in the four days after it was made, according to the Hotline, a Washington-based newsletter.”

Wife subpoena

The wife of Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has been subpoenaed by federal authorities investigating possible corruption in her husband’s administration, according to published reports.

The subpoena requires Patricia Rowland to produce documents or records, but it does not compel her to appear before a grand jury, the Hartford Courant and the New Haven Register reported Saturday. Patricia Rowland’s personal attorney, Robert M. Casale, told the Register the subpoena seeks documents relating to gifts she or the governor may have received.

When reached by the Associated Press, the governor’s chief counsel, Ross Garber, declined comment.

Sources told the Courant the subpoena could focus on her role in preserving and maintaining the governor’s official residence in Hartford. Documents relating to the residence already have been taken from state officials by the FBI and federal prosecutors.

The first lady is heavily involved in the Governor’s Residence Conservancy Inc., a private foundation that has raised more than $1 million to renovate the mansion and gardens.

Kerry’s goof

“Michael Kinsley once noted that in Washington, a gaffe is when someone blurts out the truth. Toward the end of his New Hampshire campaign, John Kerry made just this kind of error.” Ramesh Ponnuru writes in the Feb. 23 issue of National Review.

“Asked whether he could win votes in the South, Kerry responded: ‘Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South. Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own.’

“The backpedaling began instantly. In his next words, Kerry said, ‘I think the fight is all over this country.’ When Southern Democrats complained that the senator was writing off their region, his spokesmen denied the charge,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“Republicans will be using Kerry’s gaffe against him all year. Ralph Reed, who is helping to run the Bush campaign’s Southern operations, says, ‘This is an extraordinary statement for a front-runner to make. I liken it to when Barry Goldwater said he wished he could cut off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.’ Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia is the Republicans’ favorite Democrat in part because he has been willing to accuse his own party of condescension toward the South. Kerry’s comments will help Republicans make that case.”

Still confident

While some Republicans are nervous about recent polls that show President Bush trailing likely Democratic nominee John Kerry, conservative activist Grover Norquist sounds unperturbed.

“We know how to beat standard-issue national Democrats,” Mr. Norquist told the New York Times. “We do it regularly. When you stand up and say here’s a Massachusetts liberal whose voting record is nearly identical to Ted Kennedy’s, you just lost 45 percent of the electorate — and that’s the starting point.”

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

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