- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Liberal dream

“Those who despise George Bush see him as the Second Coming of Richard Nixon, and they wish for nothing more fervently than a Second Going: a Watergate-magnitude scandal that will drive him from office. Their last best hope is Patrick Fitzgerald,” Jed Babbin writes at the American Spectator Web site (www.spectator.org).

If Mr. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating whether top-level White House aides illegally leaked the name of a CIA agent, chooses to charge people for their political activities, “he can for all intents criminalize politics,” Mr. Babbin said.

“Which is precisely that which the media is salivating over in anticipation. The usual suspects are already thinking Watergate Redux. Appropriately for a CBS reporter, Lesley Stahl appeared on the Comedy Central channel and said that the Valerie Plame case ‘could possibly take off the way Watergate did.’”

Lion in winter

“Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter,” writes Thomas M. DeFrank of the New York Daily News, citing anonymous Bush associates.

“With a seemingly uncontrollable insurgency in Iraq, the White House is bracing for the political fallout from a grim milestone that could come any day: the combat death of the 2,000th American G.I.,” said Mr. DeFrank, the paper’s Washington bureau chief.

“Last week alone, 23 military personnel were killed in Iraq, and five were wounded [Sunday] in a relentless series of attacks across the country.

“This week could also bring a special prosecutor’s decision that could shake the foundations of the Bush government.

“The president’s top political guru, Karl Rove, and Vice President Cheney’s right-hand man, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, are at the center of a two-year criminal probe into the leak of a CIA agent’s identity. Many Bush staffers believe indictments are likely.

“‘He’s like the lion in winter,’ observed a political friend of Bush. ‘He’s frustrated. He remains quite confident in the decisions he has made. But this is a guy who wanted to do big things in a second term. Given his nature, there’s no way he’d be happy about the way things have gone.’

“Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it. Lately, however, some junior staffers have also faced the boss’ wrath.

“‘This is not some manager at McDonald’s chewing out the help,’ said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. ‘This is the president of the United States, and it’s not a pleasant sight.’”

Futile search

The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, writing at www.OpinionJournal.com, says he asked the White House, the Republican National Committee and a close friend of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to give him the name of “anyone who has ever had a serious conversation about politics or judicial philosophy with Ms. Miers.”

“I never received any names” from the White House or the RNC, he said, but Miers’ friend Nathan Hecht gave him two. However, when Mr. Fund phoned those persons, they were stumped.

“So my hunt went on. In desperation, I took to going on radio talk shows in Texas and tongue-in-cheek offered to practice ‘checkbook journalism’ for the first time in my career. I said I would write a small check to the favorite charity of anyone who contacted me and could plausibly say that he has had a serious discussion about politics or judicial philosophy with Ms. Miers. So far, it hasn’t cost me a dime,” Mr. Fund said.

“For my trouble, I have been incorrectly attacked by allies of Ms. Miers, including some in the White House, for supposedly waving a checkbook seeking negative information about her. For the record, I made my offer in a jocular fashion, but to make a serious point. With the exception of President Bush, no one appears to know the nominee’s judicial philosophy.”

Mr. Fund added: “I believe it is almost inevitable that Ms. Miers will withdraw or be defeated.”

Pressing senators

National Review yesterday called on Republican senators to confront the White House over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“If she implodes at the hearings, it will not just be her personal embarrassment. She will set the conservative cause back dramatically,” the magazine said in an editorial at www.nationalreview.com.

“There is no good reason to keep going down this road other than the sheer stupid force of inertia, i.e. this is the nomination, so we’re stuck with it. Indeed, if Senate Republicans and conservative lawyers were being candid about their views of this nomination, it probably would already have sunk.

“This moment calls for leadership from Republican senators, who should go to the White House and insist that this nomination will not work and should be withdrawn. The White House is too insulated and reflexively defensive (note President Bush’s pique [Sunday] when asked about criticism of Miers) to figure this out on its own. Is this a difficult message for anyone to deliver? Yes, but that’s why we have senators and not White House automatons occupying the upper chamber of Congress.”

Musical judges

A retired Texas judge will decide next week whether state District Judge Bob Perkins, who has contributed to such groups as MoveOn.org, should continue presiding over the trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money laundering and conspiracy charges.

C.W. Duncan, a former state district judge, will preside at a Nov. 1 hearing on Mr. DeLay’s request that Judge Perkins leave the case, the Associated Press reports. Mr. DeLay’s attorneys argue that Judge Perkins’ political contributions make a fair trial impossible.

Judge Perkins referred the decision to B.B. Schraub, presiding judge of the third administrative judicial region. Judge Schraub yesterday assigned the case to Mr. Duncan. The hearing will be in Judge Perkins’ Austin courtroom.

Tax crusade

“When, on this past weekend’s ‘Inside Washington,’ host Gordon Peterson recited a list of issues Democratic congressional candidates could use against Republican incumbents — ‘you’ve got Iraq, you’ve got Harriet Miers, you’ve got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You’ve got a lot of ammunition’ — NPR reporter Nina Totenberg jumped in to shout: ‘And you’ve got the tax cuts!’ the Media Research Center’s Brent H. Baker reports at www.mrc.org.

“Totenberg’s been on a crusade. On the same show last month, as detailed in a September 26 CyberAlert posting, she dismissed the idea of canceling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks, to pay for Katrina recovery, as small change and suggested that ‘if you canceled the tax cuts, you’d get $225 billion.’”

Miss Totenberg, back in early September, even blamed tax cuts for the levee breakage in New Orleans: “For years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go, and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us.”

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

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