- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Baker’s role

A “well-placed source” tells CNN’s Candy Crowley that James A. Baker III has agreed to lead the Bush-Cheney debate-negotiations team.

“One source told CNN that an announcement would be made soon, probably this weekend or early next week,” John Mercurio writes in the Morning Grind column at www.cnn.com.

“Sources note that the Bush campaign has not committed to the plan put forward by the Commission on Presidential Debates that calls for one VP and three presidential debates. One source said Republicans would push for just two Bush-Kerry forums.”

A good start

The opening night of the Republican convention was the most effective night of any convention I have seen since 1992,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“The September 11 presentation was affecting and pointed — ‘politicized,’ as it were — and, what it could not be in Boston, integrated into the rest of the night,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“And then there were [Sen. John] McCain and [former N.Y. Mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani. Conservatives complained about them (or at least about the absence of more conservative voices) when the convention lineup was announced. But neither man used the occasion to air his disagreements with mainstream Republicans. Both of them say that what matters more are their agreements with the president about the war — and that is what they discussed.

“My own view is that McCain’s speech was far superior to Giuliani’s, and that McCain positioned himself better for 2008 last night than Giuliani did. Giuliani had some great lines. The bit about Edwards’ ‘two Americas’ was one of them, and the delivery was great. The story about the construction workers was one of the funnier things I’ve heard in a convention speech. (It was also interesting to note the clapping when Giuliani said he honored Kerry’s service.) But Giuliani suffered from following McCain.

“Giuliani’s speech was, in contrast to McCain’s, more bombastic. It was more susceptible to being caricatured in the media as a slashing partisan attack because it was one in parts. It was more narrowly targeted. McCain tried harder to reach the whole country; Giuliani wanted the convention hall. …

“My guess is that McCain’s speech did more good for Bush than Giuliani’s did. I think the delegates knew it, too, and gave McCain credit for it. McCain’s own instincts, and bad advice, have foiled him before. But he just made a plausible claim on the party’s nomination for 2008. A McCain aide has recently been quoted saying, of Democrats disappointed by his embrace of Bush, that they had forgotten that he is a Republican. A lot of conservatives had forgotten it, too, before [Monday] night.”

George and Zell

“The alliance between President Bush and Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia began this way: After Bush was declared winner of the 2000 presidential race, but before he was inaugurated, he invited Miller to confer with him in Austin, Texas,” Fred Barnes writes at the Weekly Standard’s Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“Officially, Bush was still Texas governor. But he wanted to talk to Miller about education, a national issue in which they had a mutual interest. Earlier, as Georgia governor, Miller had famously instituted Hope Scholarships that guaranteed every Georgia high school senior with a B average or better a free college education,” Mr. Barnes said.

“As he was leaving the governor’s mansion in Austin, Miller told Bush he’d be willing to sponsor the No Child Left Behind education-reform bill. And almost in passing, Miller told Bush: ‘I agree with you about a lot of things. I support your tax cuts, too.’ Several days later, Miller heard from then-Senator Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican, who asked him to co-sponsor the tax bill. Miller agreed.

“And so a friendship, both political and personal, was born. It’s a friendship that led to Miller’s endorsement of Bush for re-election months ago and to his appearance to deliver the keynote address at the Republican national convention here. It’s the first Republican convention Miller has ever attended. In fact, he’s never voted for a Republican for any office at any time — until now.”

An ‘ebbing claim’

“Republicans gathered in New York this week will be advertising their accomplishments, and fair enough. Yet if President Bush and the rest of his Grand Old Party want to turn their wispy hold on power into a real governing majority, they’ll reassert their ebbing claim as the party of ideas,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“Measured in offices held, the GOP hasn’t been this strong since the 1920s. Republicans hold the White House and both branches of Congress, albeit narrowly but also by dint of a historic midterm election victory in 2002. The party also owns 28 of the 50 governorships, including in the large, dynamic states of Texas, Florida and California. With an incumbent president seeking re-election, the GOP has a chance to forge a real mandate to govern,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“Yet there is also a sense that the GOP, especially its congressional wing, has been drifting from the principles that brought it to power. In 2000, Candidate Bush described the GOP as the party of reform — from Social Security to Medicare, greater accountability in education and the ‘compassionate conservatism’ of faith-based charity. Four years later, Americans are left wondering if Republicans still believe in that agenda, or if they’re slowly being captured by the inertia of Beltway incumbency.”

Cheney’s reply

Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday it would be wrong for him to judge Sen. John Kerry‘s service during the war or his anti-war activities later, given that he avoided military service altogether.

Mr. Cheney was asked if Mr. Kerry should apologize for saying that troops in Vietnam committed atrocities, testimony that riled some officers who served with him, the Associated Press reports.

“I didn’t have to serve in Vietnam, and I try to make it a point always to thank those who did for their service, regardless of what their views are or exactly where they served during that period of time or under what circumstances,” the vice president said on Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio talk show.

“I really don’t think it’s for me to be trying to judge his behavior then,” he added.

Advice for protesters

National Journal quotes Republican convention delegate Kendal Unruh of Colorado dismissing concerns about unpleasant run-ins with convention interlopers: “It would have been easier to go to a more Republican city, but it’s not a bad thing to have disagreements. The other thing protesters need to remember is that we’re Republicans. We pack [heat].”

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

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