- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman yesterday ridiculed Democrats and the “mainstream media,” but said Republicans must embrace reform in order to win the 2006 elections.

“One of the oldest lessons in history is that power corrupts,” Mr. Mehlman warned in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

“And if we are to learn from that particular lesson of history, then we must take a stand, right here, right now, against corruption,” he added. “We must remember that public service is a sacred trust, and we cannot allow it to be sullied by anyone — Democrat or Republican.”

The acknowledgement was an attempt to counter the Democratic charge that Republicans are immersed in a “culture of corruption.” In recent months, Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, has been indicted and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in a separate case, has pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

But Mr. Mehlman spent most of his speech excoriating Democrats and journalists. Less than a week after saying he detected “a lot of anger” in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Mehlman yesterday slammed the New York Democrat for advocating a rollback of President Bush’s tax cuts.

“To support our troops in Iraq, guess how Hillary Clinton would pay for it?” he said. “Higher taxes.”

Mr. Mehlman also went after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for attacking the National Security Agency’s (NSA) terrorist surveillance program.

“Do Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean really think that when the NSA is listening in on terrorists planning attacks on America, they should hang up when those terrorists call their sleeper cells in the United States?” he said.

Mr. Mehlman also expressed incredulity that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was “proud when he announced last year, and I quote, ‘We killed the Patriot Act.’ ”

“We do not and we never should question these Democrat leaders’ patriotism,” he added. “But we do question their judgment and we do question their ability to keep the American people safe.”

Mr. Mehlman took an even tougher line against the press, which has been highly critical of the surveillance program.

“The media calls this program ‘domestic spying,’ ” he said. “This is the same mainstream media that called a story based on forged documents ‘fake but accurate.’ ”

It was a slap at CBS News, which in September 2004 used forged documents to question President Bush’s military record. The scandal forced Dan Rather from his anchor chair and resulted in the firing of CBS producer Mary Mapes, among others.

“Between the time Ronald Reagan was elected and today, evening viewership of network news dropped from 52 million people to 29 million people,” Mr. Mehlman said, drawing applause from his audience of mostly young conservatives. “During the same time daily newspaper readership has fallen from 67 percent to 52 percent.

“And our grass-roots efforts can fill the vacuum,” he said. “The mainstream media just doesn’t get it.”

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