- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Welcome back

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, gave losing presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry a warm welcome back Tuesday at the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice.

Mr. Lugar said he was “proud that a member of our committee was a candidate for president of the United States,” the New York Times reports.

The Massachusetts Democrat replied, “I wish we could have translated your pride into some votes.”

The comment prompted laughter.

“But thank you anyway,” said Mr. Kerry, who was attending his first Foreign Relations Committee hearing since September 2003.

History of failure

“Presidential second terms usually end in failure. Since 1900, only Teddy Roosevelt could boast of a second term that was as good or better than his first,” New York Post columnist Dick Morris writes.

Woodrow Wilson lost Congress, then couldn’t bring America into the League of Nations. FDR, whose third term was a success, failed to pass anything in his second after he alienated Congress by trying to pack the Supreme Court and purge recalcitrant Democrats. Harry Truman’s popularity plunged over Korea, as Lyndon Johnson’s did over Vietnam. Ike had two recessions and a hospitalization. Richard Nixon resigned. Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra, and Bill Clinton was impeached,” Mr. Morris said.

“The reasons for second-term failure are pretty much the same: Presidents generally do what they are good at in their first four years, then spend their second term responding to the agendas imposed upon them by events. Plus, re-election itself tends to encourage a spirit of hubris — even as top staff typically depart in search of lucrative jobs, leaving second stringers in charge.

“But President Bush has gotten off to a very good start in the weeks since Election Day. Palestine is lurching toward peace. North Korea seems likely to return to six-power talks. Iraq will hold an election, with turnout likely exceeding our own. Ukraine has opted for democracy.”

Tax on wealthy

Indiana’s new Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who served as President Bush’s first budget director, has proposed a one-year, 1 percent surtax on residents with incomes of more than $100,000 to cut the state’s deficit.

The tax, payable in 2006, would affect about 178,000 taxpayers who had adjustable gross incomes of more than $100,000 in 2002. It would raise an estimated $290 million to help plug an anticipated $645 million shortfall, the Indianapolis Star said.

Indiana has had a flat state income tax of 3.4 percent since 1987.

Mr. Daniels proposed spending cuts and freezing education and health care spending in his first State of the State address.

“I will veto any attempt to raise general taxes on our citizens and any attempt to extend for even one day the one temporary measure I reluctantly propose tonight,” Mr. Daniels told the state legislature during his 30-minute speech on Tuesday night. “The wolf is not at the door; he is inside the cabin.”

Prayer leader

The Rev. Billy Graham will lead the opening prayer at a service at the National Cathedral tomorrow honoring the second inauguration of President Bush.

“I have known the Bush family for many years and have seen how their faith in God has sustained them through some very trying times,” Mr. Graham said yesterday. “I pray for them daily, and it is a great honor to pray publicly for our president, his family and our nation as he begins his second term.”

The president credits Mr. Graham with inspiring him to reaffirm his faith at age 40, give up drinking and become more self-disciplined.

The Clinton brand

“It is amazing how Democrats refuse to seriously acknowledge the political liability of the Clinton brand,” Chuck Todd, editor in chief of the daily political roundup Hotline, writes at www.NationalJournal.com.

They admit that with some voters in some unwinnable states, former President Bill Clinton’s name is the equivalent of a four-letter word. But try having a rational conversation with a smart Democrat who maintains that former Vice President Al Gore was right and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was wrong about how to handle the former president. …

“Clinton’s biggest defenders can’t come to grips with the fact that the former president became what his critics said he was. For his first four years in office, these fringe GOP-leaning critics regularly denounced Clinton as a ‘slick,’ lying philanderer. Well, what did Clinton do while in office? He lied about cheating on his wife. This, in turn, gave these fringe GOP megaphones on the right credibility. And it’s this credibility that has allowed this not-so-conspiratorial right wing to become an even bigger force in American politics today.”

Open primary

The Supreme Court debated yesterday whether voters from one political party should be allowed to cross over and vote in another party’s primary, a practice forbidden in nearly half the states.

Justices are reviewing a First Amendment challenge to Oklahoma’s system by the Libertarian Party, which wants to open its primaries to voters registered as Democrats or Republicans in hopes of attracting more members.

Oklahoma is one of 24 states that require parties either to limit their primaries to registered party members or to exclude voters registered with other parties.

D.C. lawyer Gene Schaerr, representing the states that back Oklahoma, told justices that under an open system, Democrats could vote in a Republican primary to help a candidate they consider easier to beat in the general election.

But several justices seemed concerned that Oklahoma does not give voters a chance to participate in third-party elections, the Associated Press reports. Voters can switch their registration to the Libertarian Party, but that must be done about eight weeks before the election.

“It gives them a very impossibly short window,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said. “Isn’t that kind of burdensome?”

Hollywood landslide

“By the standard applied on NBC’s ‘The West Wing,’ President George W. Bush won in a ‘landslide,’” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org.

“In a 2002 episode following the re-election of ‘President Josiah Bartlet,’ one of his top aides, ‘Communications Director Toby Ziegler,’ stated that he won by ‘three-and-a-half million’ votes and later proclaimed that ‘we won in a landslide.’ Bush won by about 3.3 million votes, pretty close to ‘three-and-a-half million.’”

Split decision

The latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, released yesterday, found that 49 percent of those surveyed think President Bush is a uniter, while 49 percent think he is a divider.

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

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