- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Benchwarmer

“I just don’t think I’ve heard too many folks, if any, point out that he really hasn’t stood out in the Senate,” says Capitol Strategies PR president Cheri Jacobus,who provides us her timely take on the Senate accomplishments, whatever they may be, of likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry.

“There’s so much focus on his military service, but what about his Senate service?” she asks.

So Ms. Jacobus, a Capitol Hill veteran who has orchestrated numerous Republican congressional campaigns, undertook two decades’ worth of legislative research to come up with a title she considers befitting of Mr. Kerry: “The Benchwarmer from Massachusetts.”

“As kids, when my siblings and I were torn between visions of greatness and fear of failure, my father would tell us that in sports and in life, ‘The only way to avoid making mistakes is to stay on the bench and never get in the game,’” she says.

Mr. Kerry, according to the campaign strategist, is in desperate need of a “sit-down” with her dad.

“In his nearly two decades as a United States senator, John Kerry has not stood out as a leader on any key issue,” Ms. Jacobus finds. “There are pieces of landmark legislation — some we like and some we don’t like, but at least we know about them — from senators who … left their mark because they left the bench and got in the game.

“So where is the legislative legacy of Sen. John Kerry?” she wonders. “Absent are the stories of the pain, the glory, the blood, sweat and tears from a Sen. Kerry dedicated to an issue close to his heart that he believed in with every cell of his being. Lore of this nature is Washington’s version of the stories of sports legends.”

Liberal legions

We wrote last week that a majority of newspapermen and broadcasters who cover the national beat in Washington “are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public.”

Findings by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press revealed that the Washington press corps is “notably different from the general public in their ideology and attitudes toward political and social issues,” with 34 percent labeling themselves “liberals.”

At the same time, only 7 percent described themselves as “conservatives,” compared with a third of all Americans.

Curious how today’s breed of reporter stacks up against those of past decades, we dusted off a 1981 survey conducted by S. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman published in that same year’s October/November issue of Public Opinion.

The two pollsters conducted hour-long interviews with 240 of this country’s most influential reporters, editors and bureau chiefs. The findings:

In the 1964 presidential race, reporters voted for the Democratic candidate by a margin of 15 to 1. In the 1972 and 1976 presidential contests, the Democratic lever was pulled more than 4 to 1.

In addition, 90 percent of the reporters said they were “pro-abortion” (sanitized in later years to read “pro-choice”); 86 percent said they seldom, if ever, attended religious services (only half claimed any religious affiliation); and 80 percent said they favored strong affirmative action.

That same year, a follow-up poll was conducted among 28 candidates for master’s degrees at the Columbia School of Journalism to see whether the liberal trend might continue in the fourth estate. Those results, published in the December 1982 issue of the Washington Journalism Review, help explain the political stripes of reporters today.

A whopping 85 percent of the journalism graduates described themselves as liberal. Perhaps more amazing, only 4 percent voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election, 59 percent voted for Jimmy Carter, and 29 percent for John Anderson.

Taggart’s tree

Rep. Joe Taggart of Kansas, his family at his side, thought he had picked out the best spot on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol to plant a pin oak in his honor in 1916.

Surely the congressman, who passed away in 1938 at the age of 71, never thought his tree would have to be chopped down years later to make way for an underground U.S. Capitol Visitors Center (not to mention a large bunker to keep members sheltered from terrorists).

So, recently, U.S. Capitol senior landscape architect and horticulturist Matthew Evans, along with Rep. Dennis Moore, Kansas Democrat, grabbed a shovel and planted a new pin oak memorializing the late Kansas congressman, who upon leaving Congress at the start of World War I joined the quartermaster corps of the Army. After the war ended, he became a prosecuting attorney and judge.

The young Taggart pin oak, donated by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C., is now taking root on the east grounds of the Capitol near Independence Avenue Southeast.

Michelin muzzle

Realizing that thousands of sportsmen need dependable tires to get them where they’re going, leading tire manufacturer Michelin has decided to end its support of a national anti-hunting group.

Michelin has informed the congressional lobby group U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance that its sponsorship of a division of the American Humane Association would end with a current bobble-head promotion.

Michelin is giving a $5 donation to the AHA for every Michelin Man bobble head distributed between May 1 and June 25. The toys sell online and are free with the purchase of new tires.

“Businesses are often uninformed about the actual agenda of animal-rights organizations,” says alliance president Bud Pidgeon, who notes that the AHA uses donations to oppose “all hunting.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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