- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

Deep discontent

Whatever the outcome of next month’s House elections, the leaders of both parties face deep discontent within their own parties, according to a survey of “political insiders” published today by National Journal.

A clear majority of Beltway Republicans would like to see House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert step down if the Republican Party holds control of the chamber, according to the poll conducted for MSNBC. Only 14 percent of those surveyed said Mr. Hastert should remain.

“If Republicans are going to regain their strength, they need to start fresh with a new speaker who exudes energy and excitement,” said one respondent.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi garnered a majority of support among Democratic insiders but fell far short of unified support. More than 40 percent of the Democrats surveyed said the San Franciscan should be replaced as leader if they win the House.

“The Democratic leadership has been largely MIA on the great issues of the day — fumbled North Korea strategy, immigration, gas prices, Iraq,” offered one Democrat. Another said: “Democrats need someone who can effectively communicate our vision as we go into the 2008 presidential elections.”

The poll surveyed 138 Beltway “insiders” such as pollsters, campaign managers and other influential party operatives with “campaign experience, insider knowledge, and ties to key voting blocs.” The lawmakers in each party who will vote for speaker in January are not included.

‘Repulsive ads’

“Michael J. Fox is making a splash on television sets across Missouri, appearing in a stem-cell commercial attacking Sen. Jim Talent during Game 1 of the World Series,” Ryan T. Anderson writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“According to Fox, ‘Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem-cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope.’ Of course Sen. Talent has been a consistent supporter of increased funding for stem-cell research that doesn’t involve the destruction of human embryos and has only sought to criminalize human cloning, but one needn’t let the facts get in the way. (And it is worth mention that Missouri has a bill on the state ballot that would allow the cloning of human beings and then require their destruction prior to gestation).

“Fox has also just released a similar ad attacking Michael Steele in his race for the vacant Senate seat in Maryland. The reality, however, is that the only person in that race to have voted against stem-cell research is Steele’s opponent, Ben Cardin,” said Mr. Anderson, a junior fellow at First Things and assistant director of the Program on Bioethics and Human Dignity at the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, N.J.

“In four other states, ads are attacking congressional Republicans who voted against federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The ads, paid for by the Democratic group Majority Action, attack Representatives Chris Chocola, Thelma Drake, Don Sherwood, and James [T.] Walsh. …

“These ads are repulsive. They play on the hopes and fears of million of Americans who are suffering from debilitating diseases, are caring for loved ones, and yearn for something, anything, to hold onto. They manipulate the public’s emotions in the worst imaginable ways, promising them cures that are, in fact, quite uncertain, and pressuring them to forgo their own ethical convictions.”

Beyond criticism

“On Wednesday’s ‘Good Morning America,’ co-host Diane Sawyer contended Michael J. Fox’s plight — suffering from Parkinson’s disease — should make him immune from criticism, a line of thinking which presumed Rush Limbaugh and others who pointed out inaccuracies in Fox’s anti-Republican candidate TV ads wanted him censored when they were just treating him like anyone else who joins the political fray,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“Sawyer pressed guest Sean Hannity: ‘What is going on here? Attacking Michael J. Fox? … Rush Limbaugh, even in his apology, said that Mike Fox was allowing his illness to be exploited, shilling for a Democratic candidate. If you have Parkinson’s disease, and you believe embryonic stem-cell research is the, is the answer, a possible answer, a possible cure, don’t you have a right to speak up?’

“When Hannity suggested some vindication for Limbaugh’s suggestion that Fox may have been off his meds in order to look as bad as possible, citing how Fox had done that before congressional testimony, Sawyer retorted: ‘He didn’t say that. He didn’t talk about the congressional testimony.’ In fact, he did write about that in his book.”

Firing up the base

“In terms of so-called ‘October Surprises’ that might affect the election, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that opens the door to gay marriage certainly ranks below the congressional page scandal involving former Florida Rep. Mark Foley. But the decision could be a welcome boost for a White House and congressional Republicans worried about firing up the conservative base of their party,” Time magazine’s Perry Bacon Jr. writes at www.time.com.

“Only Tuesday, Bush aides brought in a few dozen conservative radio talk show hosts to broadcast from the White House, where top officials such as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove tried to get them fired up about the importance of returning Republican majorities to Congress. And while GOP leaders have been warning about high taxes and weakened national security if Democrats were to regain control of Congress, Republicans can now emphasize their differences with Democrats on an issue Christian conservatives are particularly passionate about. Most congressional Democrats voted against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage earlier this year.

” ‘It’s going to remind people this issue is paramount,’ says the Rev. Louis Sheldon, who runs a conservative group called the Traditional Values Coalition.”

Biting the hand

While big-city police chiefs were in Washington this week, begging the White House for more federal money to fight crime, big-city mayors were in Chicago blaming the Bush administration for being the root cause of crime.

“When Washington makes bad decisions to protect criminals rather than the public, we suffer the consequences,” New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a press conference in Chicago, placing blame for increases in violent crime squarely on the shoulders of the Bush administration.

Even as that verbal spanking was being delivered, though, police chiefs were asking Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman to direct more federal money to local police.

Mr. Bloomberg has organized Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group of big-city mayors who say the administration coddles the National Rifle Association, and say local officials end up having to deal with the consequences of gun crimes.

Ironically, the Associated Press said that even as he blamed the administration for being soft on guns, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley acknowledged his city still tries to siphon gun-crime cases into federal courts because federal penalties are higher.

“We’ve had to work hard to keep Congress from making things even worse,” Mr. Daley explained.

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

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