- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A happy birthday

“Every 20 years, on my birthday, really good things happen to me,” Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican and House majority whip, tells reporter Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times.

On Mr. Blunt’s 35th birthday — Jan. 10, 1985 — he was sworn in as the first elected Republican secretary of state in Missouri in 52 years. Standing beside him on the steps of the Capitol was his son, Matt Blunt.

“Matt remembers that day,” Mr. Blunt says.

Fast-forward 20 years to Jan. 10, 2005, when it will be Roy Blunt’s 55th birthday. Once again, he will stand on the steps of the state Capitol, this time watching his 34-year-old son be sworn in as the second-youngest governor of Missouri (Republican Christopher S. Bond, now a U.S. senator, was the youngest at 33 in 1973).

The younger Mr. Blunt, a Naval Academy graduate called to duty after the September 11 attacks, defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill 51 percent to 47 percent on Nov. 2.

“My son will be the first Republican governor to have a Republican Senate and House in 82 years,” Mr. Blunt says.

Disunited GOP

“Three weeks ago, the Republicans won an impressive victory. So what have they been doing since?” New York Times columnist David Brooks asks.

“First, they had an intraparty argument over whether to keep Arlen Specter as Senate Judiciary chairman. Then they had an anguished intraparty dispute over whether to bend their rules to protect Tom DeLay. Then on Saturday, they had a long, heated debate about intelligence reform, which ended with 80 to 100 Republicans defeating or at least stalling a bill that was strongly supported by President Bush and the congressional leaders,” Mr. Brooks said.

“Forget the Democrats. Bush’s biggest problem over the next few years will be keeping his Republican majority together.

“Republicans have banded together over the past few years because of the war and the need to re-elect the president. But that’s over. The congressional horses are spitting out the bits.”

Mr. Brooks added: “The president will find that with congressional Republicans increasingly discordant and assertive, he can’t pass major legislation with Republican votes alone. On issues like, say, Social Security, he’ll lose some Republicans whichever way he turns. He’ll have to compensate by building unlikely coalitions of the willing, including some Democrats.”

Washington race

Republican Dino Rossi kept a razor-thin lead in the Washington governor’s race as counties raced against today’s deadline for recounting 2.8 million ballots — and girded for yet another recount, the Associated Press reports.

Both political parties were poised to request a hand recount if they do not like today’s results. That count would take until nearly Christmas to complete.

“It looks like that’s the only way we’ll ever break this tie,” Democratic state party Chairman Paul Berendt said yesterday.

Republican state Chairman Chris Vance said he expects Mr. Rossi to win today’s count and called on Democrat Christine Gregoire to “do the decent thing, the honorable thing and concede, instead of dragging this into the Christmas season with the state not knowing who the governor is.”

Mrs. Gregoire’s camp said that she still expects to win and that a manual recount would make sure every valid ballot is counted.

The new governor, succeeding retiring two-term Democrat Gary Locke, is to be inaugurated Jan. 12. Both Mrs. Gregoire and Mr. Rossi have named transition teams.

The nation’s last unsettled governor’s race has drawn the attention of both national parties, including the Bush White House, which dispatched its election team, and the Democratic Governors’ Association, which has offered to help finance a hand recount.

With all but three of the state’s 39 counties reporting by yesterday afternoon, Mr. Rossi had gained a net 55 votes over the 261-vote lead he held over Mrs. Gregoire after last week’s official count. Still recounting were King, Kitsap and Whitman counties.

Going bonkers

President Bush proved in his first term that he had a talent for provoking fits of madness in the brains of liberals who disagree with him. It appears his second four years will be no different,” New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.

“For a week now, you see, authoritative Washington pundit-types have been making a very serious and deeply reasoned argument about the president’s new Cabinet choices for which there is only one possible word:

“Bonkerswackocrazymeshugah.

“They claim, in all seriousness, that Bush is exceeding his political, executive and electoral authority by nominating experienced administration officials to serve in his Cabinet. These choices are bad, they say, because — get this — the president is daring to appoint people who are a) loyal to him (horrors!) and b) don’t disagree with him enough (meanie),” Mr. Podhoretz said, citing commentary by Washington veteran David Gergen, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Dana Bash of CNN and failed presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

Mr. Podhoretz added: “The only surprising aspect of this argument is that it completely ditches the old, reliable ‘Bush is a moron’ meme for a new and more ominous ‘Bush is a control-freak mastermind’ theory. The man who, we were told, had no interest in policy and could barely tie his shoes now wants to vet every minute decision made at the departments of State, Justice and Education and at the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Hey guys: Pick an argument and stick to it, will you? Otherwise, people will start thinking you’re crazy.”

Too early to tell

A Texas prosecutor says no one is “off the hook” in the investigation of a political committee founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.

Gregg Cox, a Travis County assistant district attorney, said everyone involved with the Texans for a Republican Majority are still potential suspects, the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday.

Mr. Cox reacted to a CBS News report Monday that said Mr. DeLay is unlikely to be indicted in the case. The prosecutor said it would be premature to talk about who may or may not be indicted.

“No one has ever named Tom DeLay or any other individual as a target in this investigation,” Mr. Cox said. “Nor have we ever said that anyone is off the hook.”

There will be no further grand jury investigation or potential indictments before January, the assistant district attorney said.

Three of Mr. DeLay’s associates have been indicted by the Travis County grand jury on charges of illegally funneling corporate money into 2002 Republican campaigns for the Texas House.

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

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