- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

Rummy hangover

As the dust settles from Tuesday’s demoralizing election losses, Republicans on Capitol Hill are growing increasingly angry at President Bush, reports Charles Hurt of The Washington Times. They say his low poll numbers and poor handling of the war in Iraq were the primary causes of, to use Mr. Bush’s words, the “thumpin’ ” they took.

Insult was added to injury, numerous Capitol Hill sources said yesterday, when Mr. Bush dismissed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld the day after the elections.

“Why didn’t he fire Rumsfeld before the elections?” one Republican Senate staffer asked angrily. “Like, maybe two months ago? He might have saved us a couple of seats if he had thought of that.”

Arnold’s take

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the few Republicans to shine at the midterm elections, said yesterday that the Democratic victories were healthy for U.S. politics.

“I think it is good that there are new ideas and new blood because Washington was stuck. They could not move forward; not much was accomplished. I think it was terrible,” he told reporters on a trip to Mexico.

Mr. Schwarzenegger won re-election by a landside Tuesday after distancing himself from President Bush and adopting liberal positions on some issues. He said fellow Republicans could now learn from his change of tack and work with Democrats.

“If anyone in Washington or anyone from other states looks at that, hopefully they got the message also,” he said, according to Reuters news agency.

Warning ignored

“Tuesday’s Democratic election victory was by any measure decisive, yet in the perspective of history also unsurprising,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“In the sixth year of a two-term Presidency, Americans rebuked Republicans on Capitol Hill who had forgotten their principles and a president who hasn’t won the Iraq war he started. While a thumping defeat for the GOP, the vote was about competence, not ideological change,” the newspaper said.

“This is not to minimize the Democrats’ victory, which they deserve to savor after several frustrating election nights. Credit in particular goes to Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer, who led the House and Senate efforts to pick candidates who could win in GOP-leaning states. Their leaders, notably Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi, also kept in check their ideological ambitions to make Tuesday a referendum on Republican governance. It was a shrewd strategy.

“All the more so because the GOP gave them so much ammunition. By our count, at least eight GOP House seats fell largely due to scandal; campaign-finance ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff probably cost Conrad Burns his Senate seat in Montana. These columns have spent several years warning Republicans that their overspending, corrupt ‘earmarks’ and policy drift would undermine their claim as the party of reform. On Tuesday they did.”

Room to spare

“The Democrats’ capture of formal control of the Senate is bad news for President Bush’s judicial nominations — especially to the federal courts of appeals — during his final two years in office. But don’t be fooled by Democrats’ bluffing. There’s still plenty of room to get another excellent Supreme Court justice — or even two or three more — confirmed,” Edward Whelan writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Skeptical? Consider the last Republican appointee to the Court to be confirmed by a Democrat-controlled Senate — Clarence Thomas in 1991. That Senate had 57 Democrats and only 43 Republicans, and the swirl of allegations gave Democrats plenty of cover to vote against the nomination. Still, 11 Democrats voted for Thomas, and he was confirmed by a 52-48 margin,” said Mr. Whelan, who is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

“A lot has changed since 1991, but the changes cut in both directions. The Democrats have gotten more unified — and nastier — on judicial confirmations since then, but the high-profile politics of a Supreme Court nomination enhances the case for confirmation of a strong pick. Opponents can’t rely on obscure procedures to block the nomination. They need to make their case openly, and in the Internet age, unlike with the 1987 nomination of Judge Bork, their distortions won’t go unanswered.”

Senator’s illness

Sen. Craig Thomas, who has been hospitalized since Monday with pneumonia, has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia, his spokesman said yesterday.

The Wyoming Republican, who was easily elected to a third term while in the hospital, issued a statement saying he will undergo treatment and plans to return to Congress in January. Mr. Thomas fell ill in church in Casper, Wyo., on Sunday and was taken by ambulance to Wyoming Medical Center. He and his wife, Susan, flew back to Washington later in the day.

Mr. Thomas, 73, was admitted Monday to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, a spokesman said yesterday. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, the most common form of the disease, the Associated Press reports.

Change of plans

Reps. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrats who had planned to challenge longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, announced yesterday that they will not run for mayor next year because of their party’s new found power in Congress, the Associated Press reports.

“More than any time since I took my initial oath of office, I am excited, eager and downright giddy about the prospects in Washington,” said Mr. Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. “In short, Tuesday’s election made for a big night and a new day.”

“It’s really exciting to go back as a member of the majority party,” Mr. Gutierrez said.

Party time

The liberal online group MoveOn.org is inviting its supporters to a party tomorrow night to “celebrate the end of the Bush era.”

“Victories this big don’t come every decade,” said the e-mail invitation to the party at the Health Bar at 16th and U streets in Northwest. “This time, there’s no work or agenda — it’s time to party! And have a chance for local progressives to meet each other and celebrate what we all just did. Bring your friends.”

Favorite son

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack got an early jump on 2008 yesterday, launching a long-shot bid for the White House.

“Americans sent a clear message on Tuesday. They want leaders who will take this country in a new direction,” the Democrat said. “They want leaders who share their values, understand their needs and respect their intelligence. That’s what I’ve done as governor of Iowa, and that’s what I intend to do as president.”

Mr. Vilsack, Iowa’s two-term governor, filed documents with the Federal Election Commission in Washington to create a presidential campaign committee. His campaign Web site — www.tomvilsack08.com — was online early yesterday.

The governor is the first Democrat to officially file for the presidential campaign, but polls show him trailing presumed rivals — including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York — in Iowa, a key early caucus state.

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


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