- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Romney’s step

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney this week will submit paperwork to form a presidential exploratory committee, but not until funeral services for former President Gerald R. Ford have concluded, according to a top aide familiar with his plans.

Mr. Romney will file by tomorrow with the Federal Election Commission, the aide said, a registration that will allow the outgoing Massachusetts governor to raise and spend money in pursuit of the 2008 Republican nomination.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, have already taken the same step. Mr. Romney, like Mr. Ford, is from Michigan.

Mr. Romney yesterday ended a 10-day vacation at his home in Utah, and he had intended to file his paperwork today, the first business day of the new year, the Associated Press reports. But Mr. Ford’s death on Dec. 26 triggered a mourning period that will close federal offices and the U.S. Postal Service today, and the former president will be buried tomorrow in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We want to be very, very respectful of that,” said the Romney aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity pending the creation of the presidential committee.

Spitzer era begins

Democrat Eliot Spitzer, vowing to “replace delay and diversion with energy and purpose,” was sworn in as New York’s 54th governor during a private ceremony early yesterday at the governor’s mansion.

“Day one has begun,” Mr. Spitzer said to a resounding cheer after being sworn in shortly after midnight Sunday. “It is a joy to be here. It will be exciting. I will do my best as the public has asked me to do.”

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet administered the oath of office to Mr. Spitzer, who was once a law clerk for Judge Sweet, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Spitzer, New York’s two-term state attorney general who gained an international status by taking on major Wall Street institutions, won the governorship on Nov. 7 with a landslide victory over former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, a Republican.

Blogging the Senate

Senate Republicans have hired blogger Jon Henke for the position of “new-media director.” Mr. Henke says he believes he is the first congressional employee hired specifically to deal with the blogosphere.

“It’s either neat, or it’s scary,” Mr. Henke told Robert Stacy McCain of The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Henke, a Midlothian, Va., resident who blogs at www.qando.net, made headlines in August when he was hired to run the blog operation for Sen. George Allen‘s re-election campaign, after left-leaning bloggers helped publicize the Virginia Republican’s “macaca” remark about a volunteer for his Democratic rival, James H. Webb Jr.

Working in the office of incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, Mr. Henke’s new job “will be to monitor the blogosphere to find out what’s going on, … to correct anything that’s incorrect that gets out there, and to make sure that the Republican message is represented,” Mr. Henke tells The Times. “Sort of like the press secretary to the blogosphere, for lack of a better term.”

‘Disturbing fact’

“The 2006 midterm elections confirmed once again a truism of American politics: American Jews remain overwhelmingly devoted to the Democratic Party,” Gabriel Schoenfeld writes in the January issue of Commentary.

“According to exit polling, the tilt this year was, if anything, even more pronounced than it has been in the past. Some 88 percent of Jewish votes went to Democratic candidates, while a mere 12 percent went to the GOP,” Mr. Schoenfeld said.

But Mr. Schoenfeld notes a “paradoxical and disturbing fact … that even as Jewish voters remain unwaveringly loyal to the Democrats … the Democratic Party itself is becoming demonstrably less hospitable to Jewish interests. Indeed, on at least one matter of central concern — the safety and security of the state of Israel — the party and the American Jewish community may be heading toward a slow-motion collision.”

Ford’s courage

Gerald Ford was an underappreciated president,” Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“His greatest feat, leading America out of the traumas of Watergate and Vietnam, has routinely been viewed as an important but hardly towering achievement. But it was no small accomplishment. It was not something that any politician who stepped into the presidency, unelected, in August 1974 could have pulled off. It took a strong personality and guts,” Mr. Barnes said.

“Ford was a genial, likeable man, not entirely guileless but still an antidote to Richard Nixon, whom he replaced as president. … Nixon saw his opponents as sinister. Nixon was paranoid. Ford wasn’t.

“His appealing personality — his openness, his unperturbed reaction to critics, his cheerfulness and warmth — was a necessary factor in suturing the wounds left by the bitter political battles over Watergate and Vietnam. But imposing his personality on the nation wasn’t sufficient for the task. That’s where Ford’s guts came in.

“The fallout from the pardon, which Ford issued a month into his presidency, was predictable. His approval rating was instantly cut in half — from the 70s to the 30s. His election to a full term in 1976 became problematic at best, impossible at worst. And, as expected, he lost to Jimmy Carter narrowly in the 1976 race.

“Ford knew the political downside of the pardon. But he went ahead anyway, and it had an extraordinarily benign effect in two ways. The pardon spared the nation the trauma of bringing a former president to trial, a polarizing drama that would have lasted for years. And it allowed Ford to govern without the distraction of a Nixon prosecution. Absent the pardon, Ford would have been a crippled caretaker in the White House.”

Tighter ship

“Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent much of the last month behind closed doors, putting the final touches on a presidential campaign-in-waiting,” the Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Braun wrote in Sunday’s paper.

“Awaiting only her go-ahead — with a decision expected in January — the machine that Hillary built has the heft and advance billing of an election-year juggernaut.

Bill Clinton ran a loose and leaky ship during his two White House terms. … By contrast, ‘Hillaryland’ is a disciplined structure of her own design, a tight-knit realm populated by discreet, fiercely devoted aides who have been with the former first lady since her East Wing days, along with newer additions who serve on her Senate staff. Some wonder if her circle is too buffered.

” ‘The danger she faces,’ one longtime Clinton intimate said, ‘is the problem of insularity. You saw that at times in the Clinton White House. She tends to filter a lot through her most trusted people. That’s an advantage when things are going well. But you can get closed off when things are falling apart.’

“Her machine would nonetheless be tested early. Recent polls in New Hampshire and Iowa show Clinton would have stiff competition from two potential Democratic rivals, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

” ‘The challenge she’ll have in the primaries is building something that’s lean and supple, an operation that can turn on a dime,’ ” said Democratic pollster Geoffrey D. Garin.

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

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