- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Mission impossible?

“With one year to go until the midterm elections, Democrats believe that control of the Senate is at stake,” political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

“They’re optimistic, and they should be. Their fundraising and recruiting have been strong, and national poll numbers show President Bush in a hole and voters looking for change,” Mr. Rothenberg said.

“But netting six seats when only 15 Republican-held Senate seats are up — and when seven of those are safe for the GOP — is a daunting task. It may even be an impossible one.

“While Democrats are using 1994 as a model of what could happen next year, that cycle isn’t all that helpful for the party’s case. (Coincidentally, the Senate class up this cycle was also up 12 years ago.)

“That year, with a Republican wave clearly under way, Democrats lost eight seats. But six of those came in open seats, while only two incumbents — Pennsylvania’s Harris Wofford and Tennessee’s Jim Sasser — were defeated. And Wofford had won a special election only three years earlier.

“This cycle, there is currently one Republican open seat (Tennessee) with another in Mississippi possible. Neither state is particularly hospitable to Democrats in federal contests. So Democratic challengers will need to unseat Republican incumbents — a more difficult task that pilfering open seats.”

County on trial

Travis County, Texas, is not so prejudiced against Rep. Tom DeLay that the former House majority leader couldn’t get a fair trial in Austin, a veteran defense attorney said yesterday in a sworn court statement.

The affidavit by Betty Blackwell was filed on behalf of prosecutors who are arguing against Mr. DeLay’s request that his trial on money laundering and conspiracy charges be moved to another county.

“There is not so great a prejudice against the defendant, nor is there a dangerous combination of any sort, that will interfere with him receiving a fair trial in Travis County,” Miss Blackwell stated in the affidavit.

Defense attorneys argue that Mr. DeLay has been vilified in liberal Travis County, which was split into three different congressional districts as a result of a redistricting map Mr. DeLay engineered.

The change of venue request probably will be the first order of business for semiretired San Antonio Judge Pat Priest, who was assigned to the case last week, the Associated Press reports. Judge Priest has not yet scheduled a hearing on the matter.

Demagoguery

“Ever wonder why one hears so little talk of right-wing demagoguery?” Steve Salerno writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Oh, now and then some particularly dyspeptic liberal will lodge such charges against Rush [Limbaugh], or get in a snit over some other outspoken conservative stalwart. But the Right has no true counterparts to the likes of Jesse Jackson, Terry McAuliffe, Patricia Ireland, Al Sharpton, et al.

“There simply is no conservative whose stock in trade is the chronic spewing of grandiose pronouncements or pithy sound bites having no purpose other than to remind constituents of how much they need him in their corner,” said Mr. Salerno, author of “SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless.”

“And there’s a good reason why. Although people at all points of the political spectrum seek strong voices to articulate their respective interests, demagoguery, in its classic form, actively fans the fires of oppression, creating whole categories of needs, if not ‘rights,’ that people never knew they had (and, in truth, probably don’t have).

“The demagogue gains his standing by cultivating victimhood. He inflates his power by reminding you of your impotence, your personal and political irrelevance. He tells you that society is responsible for elevating you, not the other way around. Collectively, those are not notions that fly very well among a conservative audience.”

Stars in alignment

“On the big screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s closest brush with Shakespeare was playing a gun-toting, not-so-sweet prince in ‘Last Action Hero.’ (‘Something is rotten in Denmark — and Hamlet is taking out the trash.’) But with Californians set to decide his reform agenda in [today’s] special election, Schwarzenegger will soon learn the answer to another Shakespearean question: Does the fault lie in the state’s biggest political star?” Bill Whalen writes at the Weekly Standard’s Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“Indeed, as California braces for its vote, the stars seemed in alignment. Sen. John McCain rushed to the Golden State for a final round of campaigning for Proposition 77, which would strip the state legislature of its redistricting responsibilities. In Hollywood, a bevy of B-listers worked the phone banks to get out the vote against the Governator (among those doing the dialing: Kurtwood Smith from ‘That ‘70s Show’ and Lori Alan, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants).

“As for Warren Beatty, the notoriously private film star wasn’t exactly hiding in a pineapple under the sea.

“On Friday, Beatty personally bankrolled two-plus hours of satellite interviews with local television stations. Reporters discovered this accidentally, when Beatty showed up late for his first one-on-one and a sound engineer muttered: ‘You’d think he’d be on time; he’s paying for this himself.’”

Mr. Whalen added: “In the end, what will decide [today’s] outcome won’t be celebrities attacking Sacramento. The key is both sides’ ability to get out the vote. On Friday, California’s secretary of state predicted that turnout will be a relatively high 42 percent of registered voters (a dozen years ago, in California’s last initiative-only special election, turnout was 37 percent).”

The next step

“On this past weekend’s ‘McLaughlin Group,’ veteran Newsweek Washington bureau reporter Eleanor Clift hailed the secret session of the Senate stunt as ‘a welcome show of spine that Democrats needed,’” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“She proceeded to predict that ‘the Democrats are going to push’ the contention that President Bush ‘abused his authority’ in going to war and so ‘frankly, if the country, according to the polls, believes by a margin of 55 percent that President Bush misled us into war, the next logical step is impeachment, and I think you’re going to hear that word come up and if the Democrats ever capture either house of Congress there are going to be serious proceedings against this administration.’ (Clift had concluded her weekly Friday column on MSNBC.com by suggesting that ‘impeachment may not be so far-fetched after all.’)

“Asked by John McLaughlin to predict if Karl Rove will resign, Clift said no before she condescendingly asserted that President Bush ‘can’t tie his shoelaces without Karl Rove.’”

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

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