- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hillary’s rivals

“The 2008 presidential election is a long way off, but the first tea leaves raise an intriguing question: Is Hillary Clinton the new John Kerry?” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Clinton has been the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but she’s suddenly looking tired next to two surging opponents. Recent polls from Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the first states to cast nominating ballots, show Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards either ahead of her or tied with her,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“The early results recall Kerry’s tortured path to the 2004 nomination. He was flying high in the preliminary jockeying, then sagged like rotting fruit as the voting drew closer. He got his groove back only with a dramatic comeback victory in the Iowa caucus.

“Clinton would be happy with such an outcome, but she can’t be happy at the recent turn of events, which count as the first surprises of the 2008 race. It’s bad enough that Obama is the hot ticket after his stunning decision to test a race. But even more surprising is that Edwards, Kerry’s lackluster running mate in 2004, is doing so well in both states.

“Having two formidable opponents ahead of her is not a good omen, for it reveals that many Dems don’t want Clinton. They know her and, so far, they’re rejecting her.”

Ask the ‘expert’

Hugh Hewitt is a conservative talk-radio host and also a popular blogger at Townhall.com. He was among the bloggers who were less than amused when 23-year-old Joseph Rago of the Wall Street Journal wrote a column last week for that publication, with the title “The Blog Mob: Written By Fools To Be Read By Imbeciles.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Hewitt interviewed Mr. Rago on his radio program.

“Joe … let me ask you this,” said the host. “This is a hard question to answer. You’re 24? 22? 23?”

Mr. Rago answered, “23.”

Mr. Hewitt: “OK, you’re 23 years old. The Wall Street Journal allows you to set forth with a piece of writing that was mocked, in large part, across the blogosphere, for its many inaccuracies, satirized by people like [bloggers] Tigerhawk and Ace of Spades, and yet you’re defending mainstream media’s accumulated institutional culture that screens for originality, expertise and seriousness. Does your piece represent that tradition?”

Mr. Rago: “Yes, I think it does.”

Later, Mr. Hewitt asked, “And what’s your expertise in blogs?”

Mr. Rago: “The expertise, in this case, is criticism. It’s the exercise of judgment and taste.”

Mr. Hewitt: “Joe, you’re 23. … Can you be expert in anything? And I’m serious here.”

Mr. Rago: “I think I can write a thoughtful article, even though I’m 23.”

Mr. Hewitt: “That wasn’t … the question is, can you be expert in anything at 23?”

Mr. Rago: “No, I don’t think so.”

The full transcript of the interview is available at Mr. Hewitt’s blog (https://hughhewitt.townhall.com/).

Raising taxes

“When these columns warned last month against a tax increase next year to ‘save’ Social Security, White House officials said we were hooting at phantoms. Well, the more we listen to senior Republicans, the more worried we get,” the Wall Street Journal said yesterday in an editorial.

“Asked about a tax increase last week, President Bush refused to rule it out the way he had after the 2004 election. Instead, he said that, while he’d prefer not to raise taxes, in negotiating with Democrats he wants everyone’s ‘ideas on the table.’ His spokesman, Tony Snow, was just as noncommittal on taxes, saying that ‘I’m not ruling it up, and I’m not ruling it down.’ More than one GOP Senator has told us privately he’s open to the idea. And no less a political student than Bill Thomas, the soon-to-retire chairman of House Ways and Means, recently told a public forum that ‘I wish I were a bit more comfortable in listening to some of the noises that are currently being made’ by his GOP colleagues. Uh, oh.

“The issue is the price Mr. Bush is willing to pay to attract Democrats into a Social Security deal he could claim as a legacy. The president deserves credit for trying to reform Social Security while it is still in temporary surplus. But Democrats refuse to talk about personal retirement accounts for younger workers, and the White House is already signaling surrender on that proposal. The big question left is whether having everything ‘on the table’ means conceding to Democratic demands for higher taxes today in return for future benefit cuts.”

No prosecution

Nevada governor-elect Jim Gibbons will not be prosecuted on accusations that he assaulted a cocktail waitress in a parking garage three weeks before the election, prosecutors said yesterday.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger said there was insufficient evidence to prove criminal charges against Mr. Gibbons “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Prosecutors will, however, investigate separate accusations made by Chrissy Mazzeo, 32, and her attorneys that people associated with Mr. Gibbons tried to interfere with the investigation.

“There are allegations that certain individuals tried to influence Miss Mazzeo’s testimony to police,” Mr. Roger said.

Mr. Roger would not identify the individuals.

Miss Mazzeo accused Mr. Gibbons, a five-term congressman, of pushing her against a wall and propositioning her in a parking garage across the street from a Las Vegas restaurant where the two had been drinking with friends on Oct. 13.

Mr. Gibbons, 61, denied the account, saying he merely caught Miss Mazzeo when she tripped.

Taft rebuked

The Ohio Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded Gov. Bob Taft for his ethics violations in office, a black mark that will stay on his permanent record as a lawyer.

Mr. Taft, 64, a Republican and great-grandson of former President William Howard Taft, pleaded no contest in 2005 to failing to report golf outings and other gifts worth nearly $6,000 during his tenure in office. He was fined $4,000. Mr. Taft could not seek re-election because of term limits and leaves office in less than two weeks.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, an arm of the state Supreme Court, said in April that Mr. Taft violated Ohio’s code of professional conduct for lawyers, and Mr. Taft later signed an agreement admitting the violation.

The justices agreed by a vote of 6-0 with a recommendation from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline to issue the public reprimand, which does not prevent Mr. Taft from practicing law again, but will appear in public law registries. The court could have rejected the recommendation or ordered a stronger punishment, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Taft’s law license has been inactive since 2002.

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

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