- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

State of de-Klein

Joe Klein, who recently left the New Yorker to become chief Washington correspondent for Time magazine, says American politics and our national leaders are in a sad state.

The “Primary Colors” author warns in his soon-to-be-released book, “Politics Lost: How American Democracy was Trivialized by People Who Think You’re Stupid,” that disillusionment is growing on both sides of the political aisle.

Today’s leaders, he said, are less interested in leading than they are in their “permanent campaign,” admonishing: “If you’re going to lead, you’d best be willing to show them something of yourself, something that hasn’t been pureed by pollsters.

“If you want them to take a risk, you’re going to have to take one yourself. Sadly, most politicians are neither risk-takers nor leaders. They are followers — of convention, of public opinion — and while leadership is an art, followship has become a science, measured in polls and focus groups.”

Mr. Klein considers Democratic Sen. JohnKerry’s bid for the White House in 2004 one of the most dismal political runs in history, reflecting how traits like courage, spontaneity and leadership have all disappeared from our political landscape.

He’s no more impressed with political journalism, especially as reported on TV, which is “little more than the slavish devotion to polls.” Then there’s “the banalities of political punditry” — endless appearances by everybody and their mothers on the 24-hour cable-TV news shows.

The “fact that pundits — people like me — are so often crashingly wrong makes it all the more pathetic,” Mr. Klein writes. “Pundits, like pollsters, get most of their information by looking in the rearview mirror.”

Not so painful

Filed your taxes yet?

Since the April 15 statutory deadline for income-tax filing falls on a Saturday this year, the IRS has pushed the deadline to the next business day. So breathe easier, your 2005 income-tax return is due one week from today, April 17.

For readers who complain their taxes are far too high — and we’ve heard from plenty of you in recent weeks — consider the personal tax burdens of other countries.

First, we visit Denmark and Germany, which take a combined 42 percent of a citizen’s income in taxes and for social security. Belgium insists on 41 percent, according to the figures compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Netherlands lifts 34 percent from paychecks; Finland, Sweden and Poland, 31 percent; Turkey, 30 percent; Norway and Austria, 29 percent; Italy and France, 27 percent; Hungary, 26 percent; and Iceland and Canada, 25 percent.

As for Uncle Sam’s take? A combined 24 percent of personal income.

Proud dad

A new satellite-radio sports show hosted by former Bill Clinton strategist James Carville and his collegian sidekick Luke Russert, son of NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, is cause for a cocktail reception Thursday evening in the studios of XM Satellite Radio overlooking New York Avenue Northeast.

Promotion of the reception, co-hosted by Capitol File magazine, and the show is best left to XM’s executive vice president, Eric Logan, who draws attention to the unlikely radio pairing’s “amazing chemistry and energy.”

Earlier this year, the elder Mr. Russert came under fire for his “ethical lapse” in promoting his son’s show while hosting his otherwise hard-hitting NBC Sunday news interview program. Or as blogger Arianna Huffington sharply critiqued the plug: Mr. Russert’s action was an “unseemly use of ‘Meet the Press’ to promote James Carville’s new XM radio sports show while refusing to come clean about the fact that Carville’s co-host is Russert’s college-age son.”

Newest society

“I read with interest your column referring to the debate in the Arlington Diocese regarding girls vs. boys as altar servers,” writes Susie Mea, who attached a Sunday bulletin written by the Rev. Franklyn McAfee, pastor of St. John the Beloved Catholic Church in McLean.

“He very eloquently comes down on the side of having only boys serve; but the best part is the last paragraph,” she writes.

The pastor pointed out that while Pope John Paul II in 1994 granted a diocese permission to authorize girls as altar servers, individual bishops were under no obligation to make the change. As it was, Arlington Bishop John R. Keating, who later died in Rome in 1998 after visiting with the pope, was one of only two bishops in the United States not to welcome girls to the altar.

It was the belief of Bishop Keating that “the altar boy is to the priest as the page was to the knight.”

“It is for these reasons that I, your pastor, have decided to maintain that noble tradition of male-only servers,” he wrote in the church bulletin. “Henceforth, our altar boys — which number more than 100 — shall be known collectively as the Bishop Keating Society.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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