- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

The GOP brand

“Even though it’s only January in an off-year, and President Bush’s State of the Union address is just hours old, the GOP’s nervousness and depression is palpable,” Chuck Todd writes at www.NationalJournal.com.

“The gloom is somewhat widespread right now, and if Republicans aren’t careful, 2008 could turn into a disastrous self-fulfilling prophesy for them,” Mr. Todd said.

“Tuesday night’s speech was the start of a critical time for the Republican Party, because if Bush can’t reverse his political death spiral, next year is going to make last year seem like a fond memory.

“The Republican Party’s immediate future rests on the shoulders of its lame-duck leader, because for better or for worse, he’s the face of the party.

“Some Republicans would prefer that Bush just go away — that somehow if he is dismissed as a lame duck, voters won’t hold other members of the GOP accountable for his problems.

“But that’s just not the case. The rebound of the GOP brand has to start with the White House, specifically Bush, if the party has any hopes of winning something in 2008. Nevertheless, all sides are denying this fix at the moment.”

Mixed cliches

Virginia Sen. James H. Webb Jr.’s Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union address was memorable for all the wrong reasons, Michael J. Gerson writes at Newsweek’s Web site (www.msnbc.com).

“Whenever a politician puts out to the media that he has thrown away the speechwriters’ draft and written the remarks himself (as Webb did), it is often a sign of approaching mediocrity. This was worse. Sen. Webb made liberal use of cliches: the middle class is ‘the backbone’ of the country, which is losing its ‘place at the table.’ I am not even sure there is a literary term for a mixed metaphor that crosses two cliches,” said Mr. Gerson, a former speechwriter for President Bush.

“And Sen. Webb’s logic was as incoherent as his language (the two are often related). No ‘precipitous withdrawal’ — but retreat ‘in short order.’ Fight the war on terror vigorously — except where the terrorists have chosen to fight it. It is, perhaps, a good thing that James Webb earned a job as senator. As a speechwriter, he would starve.”

Raise those taxes

“A fresh new Congress has come to Washington, run by a different party, with different leadership and very different ideas,” Pete du Pont writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“The new House adopted tougher ethics rules for its members and hopes to get America out of the anti-terrorism effort in Iraq; it voted to raise the minimum wage and reduce the interest rates on student loans; and it wants to roll back tax deductions for oil companies and force drug makers to reduce Medicare prescription-drug prices,” Mr. du Pont noted.

“But the most important goal of the new Democratic congressional majority is establishing a liberal national economic policy: bigger government and higher taxes. Spend more even than the Republicans have been spending (an annual 7.2 percent increase during the Bush years), and raise rather than lower tax rates.

“Making sure that the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010 is the Democrats’ most important policy, and easy to accomplish since their expiration is automatic unless the law is changed. That will raise low-income tax rates to 15 percent from 10 percent and high-income tax rates to 39.6 percent from 35 percent, and — if you assume higher taxes don’t depress economic growth — it will generate about $88 billion in annual tax receipt increases by the end of the decade. And if the Congress allows the death tax to be reinstated (its phase-out expires in 2010, too), they will gain another $28 billion each year. For big government advocates, that is real progress.”

Move over, Chris

While watching television coverage of President Bush’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, John Podhoretz noticed one change in media personnel.

“On MSNBC, Chris Matthews is no longer the sole political anchor of big events,” Mr. Podhoretz observed at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com). “He’s sharing the desk with Keith Olbermann, whose ratings are nearly double those of Matthews. The virtue for Matthews is that Olbermann makes him look sane.”

Carter speaks

Former President Jimmy Carter apologized for one sentence in his recent book during his Tuesday speech at Brandeis University in Boston, reports David Pepose, a Brandeis student and former intern for The Washington Times.

In response to a question, Mr. Carter said that a sentence in “Peace Not Apartheid” — which appeared to blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism — was “constructed in an unthoughtful and stupid way.”

Asked about Saudi funding for his Atlanta-based Carter Center, Mr. Carter said the Saudi money was used primarily for environmental projects in Africa, elections in the Palestinian territories, and the rest going to the Carter Foundation.

Alan Dershowitz, who spoke after Mr. Carter’s speech, disputed the former Democratic president’s assertion that a Hamas cease-fire has ended terrorist attacks in Israel and said that if Mr. Carter had written in his book what he had said on stage, there would have been no controversy.

Protests at the event were relatively mild, Mr. Pepose reports: “In terms of on-campus stuff, surprising not too much unrest occurred: there were no protests, no walkouts, and I saw a girl with a shirt that said ‘Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace,’ who seemed pretty anti-Carter who didn’t get screened from the proceedings. This is pretty substantial considering how incensed a lot of people were over this — I’ve seen professed apolitical people debating this constantly. There were two small demonstrations outside (one pro-Carter, one against), but it never grew substantially.”

Name game

Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t think name recognition is necessarily a plus as he seeks the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2008.

“When your name is Barack Obama, you’re always an underdog in political races. That’s how it was when I ran for the United States Senate,” Mr. Obama said yesterday.

“That’s how it will be this time,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

But Mr. Obama, who has formed a presidential exploratory committee, also said he believes “I’ve got something unique to offer,” the Associated Press reports.

Appearing on CNN, Mr. Obama said that when he was running for the Senate, “there was an image of me superimposed over a picture of bin Laden. I think people like to play with my name.”

Angry governor

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco angrily criticized President Bush yesterday for not mentioning 2005’s destructive hurricanes in his State of the Union speech, and said Louisiana is being shortchanged in federal recovery funding for political reasons, the Associated Press reports.

“I guess the pain of the hurricane is yesterday’s news in Washington,” Mrs. Blanco said at a press conference.

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

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