- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

‘Magic words’

“President Bush is willing to raise taxes. That reality was a big surprise to me 16 years ago, in 1990, when I was working in the White House. It’s less of a surprise to me in 2006, when I am on the outside — because, after a while, you learn to identify the warning signs,” syndicated columnist James P. Pinkerton writes.

“In 1990, President George H.W. Bush broke his word on taxes, and he broke his own presidency. In 2006, his son, President George W. Bush, seems poised to destroy what little remains of his presidency,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

“In both cases, both Bushes have been willing to talk about ‘process’ and ‘common ground.’ But, when it comes to taxes, the opposing Democrats know two things: First, the Republicans have a winning issue on taxes — specifically, when they promise not to raise taxes. Second, if taxes are indeed to be raised, the Democrats want the Republicans to go first and say that taxes are ‘on the table.’ In other words, Democrats want Republicans to take the blame.

“So here’s the ‘on the table’ language, right on the front page of [Wednesday’s] Washington Post: ‘Signaling a new flexibility on issues in the wake of the Democrats’ wins, Bush said he is willing to discuss Democratic ideas for solving the Social Security problem, including tax increases.’ The president is quoted as adding, ‘I don’t see how you can move forward without people feeling comfortable about putting ideas on the table.’

“Those are the magic words the Democrats were waiting to hear.”

Dour president

“[Wednesday], at a press conference that was unquestionably the most dispirited performance of his presidency, President Bush implicitly answered a question many close Bush watchers had asked after the thumpin’ the Republican Party took in November,” New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.

“The question was this: How would Bush, who himself had only suffered electoral success since seeking higher office in 1994, handle defeat? The answer: Not well,” Mr. Podhoretz said.

“ ’I encourage you all to go shopping more,’ he said — expressing a strange anxiety about the economy’s retail sales after he had just trumpeted how strong those sales had been and how strong the economy has been in general.

“Asked about the pregnancy of Mary Cheney, his vice president’s lesbian daughter, Bush offered a response that contradicted itself three times in the course of three sentences: ‘On the — on Mary Cheney, this is a personal matter for the vice president and his family. I strongly support their privacy on the issue, although there’s nothing private when you happen to be the president or the vice president. I recognize that.’

“And on Iraq, he said things were tough, and were going to continue to be tough; that he had said we were winning earlier in the fall but now recognized we weren’t winning — and asked for patience as he consulted with his advisers and Democrats about a new way forward there.

“So in a few months, the president has gone from taking the position that the public needed to hear him speak optimistically about Iraq to speaking in quite dour terms about Iraq without offering anything but a hope that in a few weeks, he’ll come up with a new strategy.

“It really would have been better had he not come forward to face the press at all — because he did nothing except underline and echo a powerful sense of uncertainty throughout his own government about how to achieve victory.”

Hillary’s problem

“Hillary Clinton has a problem. Its name is Nancy Pelosi,” Jed Babbin writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“Clinton’s run for the White House is being built — as was her husband’s — on the idea of a ‘new democrat’ who accurately triangulated between liberal and conservative well enough to shroud liberal policy with a cloak of moderation. The cloak was so tightly woven and the media so compliant that no matter what Clinton did — from his first presidential act (‘don’t ask, don’t tell’) to the ‘wag the dog’ episode in the impeachment days — he escaped scrutiny. But no matter how hard Mrs. Clinton clings to the Clinton Cloak, Speaker-to-be Pelosi’s Animal House will be sticking its head out from every fold,” Mr. Babbin said.

“The timing for Sen. Clinton couldn’t be better, or worse. The country has just handed the Dems control of both houses of Congress, President Bush is swimming in circles on Iraq and for the next two years Clinton has the opportunity to win her spurs by accomplishing something substantive. If she is a leader, now is the time for her to show it.

“The pressure is on because if she can’t manage more than campaign fundraising between now and November 2008, she’ll have a hard time getting to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Clinton knows that the 2006 vote was against George Bush and his Iraq policy, not for liberal nostrums peddled by her House peers. The problem for Clinton is Pelosi and her committee chairmen who are some of the most out-of-the-mainstream libs in the land.”

Richardson draft

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s expected bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is getting a boost from some Southwest neighbors in the early caucus state of Nevada.

A former top aide to incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that he is beginning a campaign to draft Mr. Richardson into the presidential race, the Associated Press reports.

Reynaldo Martinez, a former chief of staff to Nevada’s Mr. Reid, said he leads a committee of about 70 people who want Mr. Richardson to enter the Democratic race, which kicks off in January 2008 with caucuses in Iowa and Nevada.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers said Mr. Martinez’s previous work for Mr. Reid should not suggest that Mr. Reid is backing Mr. Richardson.

New winner

A Vermont judge overturned the state auditor’s election yesterday after a recount showed that the Democratic challenger actually had beaten the Republican incumbent by 102 votes.

It was the first time in Vermont that a statewide election was overturned in a recount, the state archivist said.

Washington Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout declared Democrat Thomas M. Salmon the winner over Auditor Randy Brock after reviewing the results of a hand recount conducted by county clerks after the November election.

The secretary of state’s office had certified Mr. Brock the winner by 137 votes a week after the election after tallying each town clerk’s votes. Mr. Salmon asked the judge for a recount, and it turned out that some of his votes had been mistakenly attributed to Liberty Union candidate Jerry Levy on the first count.

c• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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