- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

It is fashionable to observe Washington has become America’s meanest city, dominated by people who clawed their way to power using the politics of hate.

But amid the Potomac poison, a new breed is mutating. It is a politically genetic hybrid that retains the best of the right and left while producing progeny who are redefining patriotism as problem-solving that transcends traditions of hate politics.

They are the new Heroes of Hate City. They are America’s best and only hope for leading us into an era that can solve our most crucial problems.

Some of the new Heroes of Hate City hold positions of power: Sens. Dick Lugar and Joe Biden, Indiana Republican and Delaware Democrat, have forged the Capitol’s most impressive, clear-headed, sharply focused panel; call it the Senate Foreign Relations Commity. (A decade ago, Mr. Lugar and then-Sen. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat, wrote the landmark Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act to safeguard Russia’s unsecured weapons of mass destruction after collapse of the Soviet Union.)

Others hold positions of fame: Sen. John McCain, every victory-minded Democrat’s dream running mate for John Kerry. Mr. McCain’s close friend, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, another pragmatic conservative Republican, could also fit without confusion in a ticket of fusion.

These and others are emerging as our hybrid hope for ending the era of vengeful attack-dog politics that once brought Newt Gingrich to power in the House. Since then, Mr. Gingrich’s disciple, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, took that attack-dog politics down to an even more vicious level — pit bull politics that have wrecked the House of Representatives.

Most recently, a desperate House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, jettisoned his once civil ways, adopting Mr. DeLay’s meaner manner. But griping Democrats need to remind themselves they started it. In their no-holds-barred smashing of President Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, they resorted to a despicable privacy-invasion: checking which movie videos he had rented.

Now this: On May 23, “Fox News Sunday” paired Sen. Lindsey Graham, conservative South Carolina Republican, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, the New York Democrat (by way of Chicago, Little Rock, and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.) conservatives most love to hate.

You probably rubbed your eyes when you saw this pairing, and perhaps Q-tipped your ears when they spoke in policy lockstep about the need to send more troops to Iraq and warned that chain-of-command failures led to the Abu Ghraib prison horrors. After all, the last time you saw the faith-based Mr. Graham linked to the controversial Mrs. Clinton was in a hate-based setting: Then-Rep. Graham helped lead the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton. That was then.

This is now: “I can’t say it more eloquently than Sen. Graham,” Mrs. Clinton commented at one point. “And I think the role that he has played in our Armed Services Committee in general, but in particular with respect to the prison abuses, has been absolutely essential.”

Fox News’ excellent moderator Chris Wallace said: “Obviously a lot of people talk about Hillary Clinton on Fox News. You famously coined the phrase, ‘the vast right-wing conspiracy.’ Do you really see things in such adversarial terms?”

“Oh, Chris, you know, we all put on our political hat when we have to,” Mrs. Clinton demurred. And Mr. Graham helped her out: “Yes. I do too.”

Mrs. Clinton: “That’s all part of being an elected official. And, yet, what I think Lindsey and I are trying to say, as well as demonstrate with our joint appearance today, is, at least from where we sit on the Armed Services Committee, we are facing some very dangerous and challenging times. And I just wish we could get everybody to understand that.”

Mr. Graham: “We were both afraid to come, because when I ran, the things I said about coming up here [to the Senate] to make sure she doesn’t have her way. But now that you’re here and you’re in the middle of a war, it does hit home to you once you sit on the Armed Services Committee, when you look at the prison abuse scandal, when you look at what we have in common. It really does change you, and I hope for the better.”

Mr. Graham paused, adding: “But yes, politics is politics. It’s fun, but some of the things that people say are not fun. And I’ve been guilty of saying some things I shouldn’t have said, and I’ve had some things said about me that I wish others wouldn’t have said. The future is what this is about, not the past.”

So it was this unlikely pairing on Fox News Sunday produced some unlikely heroics — a welcome reminder that perhaps there can be fair-and-balanced hope, even here in Hate City.

Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.

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