- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

Biden’s response

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. took a shot at some of his fellow Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination.

Mr. Biden was asked by host Tim Russert to respond to the growing consensus among his colleagues that the U.S. should pursue a complete withdrawal of forces from the country rather than leaving a residual force to combat al Qaeda and provide emergency security for the Iraqi government.

“They are mistaken. They are making a mistake. That is not practical. I don’t know how that can work,” Mr. Biden said.

The Delaware Democrat, who is stuck in single digits in most 2008 polls, says pulling all of our troops out of the country would be giving up on Iraq as a whole and not just the war.

“It may get so bad that we do not have that option and all the option we have available to us is to withdraw and try to contain the civil war inside Iraq. We are not there yet. And until we reach that point, I am not prepared to say there are no circumstances under which, after a date certain, we would not have a single troop inside of Iraq.”

Subtle payoffs

“Most Republicans viewed Barney Frank’s recent hearing on subprime mortgages as nothing more than typical Democratic corporation-bashing — and nobody is happier about that than Barney Frank,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“The House Financial Services chief is surely grinning that so few picked up on his bigger purpose: bestowing a big, wet smooch on the trial bar,” the columnist said.

“Democrats devoted their first months in the majority to paying back unions for their electoral support. Now it’s time for the other huge campaign bankrollers. And don’t think the trial bar, beat down by years of GOP tort reform, isn’t expecting to feel the love. Since 1994, law firms and lawyers have thrown a half-billion dollars at getting lawsuit-friendly Democrats back in the majority. They’ve also taken care to get their own to Washington. Of the 30 House seats Dems won in 2006, 14 were claimed by former attorneys.

“Don’t expect anything so brazen as the House bill to eliminate secret ballots in union elections or the Senate drive to organize airport screeners. The Democratic majority might be willing to nakedly use their power to help Big Labor, but are wary of doing the same for a billionaire industry that these days would lose a popularity contest with the Mob. Even the tort bar understands how deeply loathed it is by the American public. The Association of Trial Lawyers of America didn’t last year change its name to the bland ‘American Association for Justice’ for nothing.

“So no, even the old liberal lawsuit bulls such as Henry Waxman or Mr. Frank won’t start calling for the repeal of the 2005 Class Action Fairness Act, or for other blatant legislative assists to the trial bar. Instead, Democrats intend to reward the legal industry with more subtle payoffs. The most obvious gift will be a moratorium on further legal reform.”

Rough week

“It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the Democratic presidential candidates. Just as they’re settling into their game plans, one inconvenient truth after another emerges to disrupt them. And that doesn’t even include Al Gore’s weather forecasts,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Last week was especially nettlesome. It started with GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani laying down the marker that America would be safer with a Republican president, a surprise attack that put the Dems’ Gang of Eight on the defensive. Then in quick succession came former CIA Director George Tenet’s warning of likely al Qaeda attacks in the U.S. and a report that Saudi Arabia had arrested 172 militants who were plotting to blow up oil installations in the desert kingdom.

“The cumulative effect was to remind the nation that the war on terror, or whatever it’s called these days, is far from over. That reminder served as a warning to the candidates that wooing liberal primary voters with too much peace talk could put the party’s nominee at odds with swing voters in next year’s general election,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Even attacking President Bush on Iraq offers no political haven. Just as Dems in Congress finally pushed through a unified bill requiring Bush to start bringing the troops home, our commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, was in Washington warning that a pullback would mean even more violence. In response to some Democrats who say Iraq is so bad our actions don’t matter much, Petraeus laid down his own marker: ‘It can get much, much worse’ he said.”

Toxic’ GOP

“President Bush’s unpopularity and a string of political setbacks have created a toxic climate for the Republican Party, making it harder to raise money and recruit candidates for its drive to retake control of Congress,” Michael Finnegan writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“Some of the GOP’s top choices to run for the House next year have declined, citing what Rep. Thomas M. Davis III [Virginia Republican] called a ‘poisonous’ environment. And Republicans’ fundraising edge, an important advantage over the last five years, has dwindled,” Mr. Finnegan reports.

“The reality is the Republican brand right now is just not a good brand,” said Tim Hibbitts, an independent Oregon pollster. “For Republicans, the only way things really get better … is if somehow, some way, Iraq turns around.”

Republicans now resemble “a beaten-down stock,” said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Mr. Cole, however, said he was optimistic about party fundraising and candidate recruitment.

“We’re a heck of a good buy,” he said, “if anyone knows how to evaluate the stock.”

A new issue

“Anti-abortion conservatives, burned in the polls when they tried to stop the family of Florida’s Terri Schiavo from removing her feeding tube, are planning another assault,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“But this time it won’t be targeted on a single person. Instead, conservative lawmakers and activists say they’ll focus on states where liberal legislatures are planning to OK euthanasia legislation. ‘Much of the pro-life fight is going to expand on the end-of-life questions,’ says Sen. Sam Brownback, a GOP presidential hopeful.”

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

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