- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2008

Republican Five

“Politics has its puzzling moments. John McCain and most of the GOP experienced one [the week before last]. That was when five of their own set about dismantling the best issue Republicans have in the upcoming election,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“It’s taken time, but Sen. McCain and his party have finally found — in energy — an issue that’s working for them. Riding voter discontent over high gas prices, the GOP has made antidrilling Democrats this summer’s headlines,” the writer said.

“Their enthusiasm has given conservative candidates a boost in tough races. And Mr. McCain has pressured Barack Obama into an energy debate, where the Democrat has struggled to explain shifting and confused policy proposals.

“Still, it was probably too much to assume every Republican would work out that their side was winning this issue. And so, [a week ago] Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson — alongside five Senate Democrats. This ‘Gang of 10’ announced a ‘sweeping’ and ‘bipartisan’ energy plan to break Washington’s energy ‘stalemate.’ What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.

“That’s because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast — putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska’s oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.

“The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on … oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn’t have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.”

Likability factor

“Forget the issues of race, all the money and maybe even the economy and Iraq. The 2008 campaign might well come down to a single question: Can Barack Obama take a punch?” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

We’re about to find out, because John McCain’s team seems to have concluded that the GOP nominee can win only by beating up on Obama. To judge from the last two weeks, McCain is following Leo Durocher’s warning that ‘nice guys finish last.’

“Not that he has much choice,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Although almost all the national horse-race polls show a virtual tie, underlying voter sentiment still tilts heavily toward Obama in key measures of appeal. His advantages add up to a charisma gap that McCain, the ‘wrinkly, white-haired guy’ in Paris Hilton’s memorable words, can never hope to close.

“The gap is captured in a recent Time magazine poll. Asked which man they found more likable, voters picked Obama in a landslide, 65 percent to 20 percent. That doesn’t mean they will vote for him, but it does mean McCain has a tough sell if he wants to be the man Americans invite into their living rooms every day for the next four years.

“Savvy GOP strategist Ed Rollins, who says he has never seen results of the ‘likability’ question so lopsided, believes the issue can determine victory because it usually predicts which way the 10 percent or so of voters who aren’t locked into partisan choices will break.”

Still angry

“Everyone knows there is bad blood between the Obamas and the Clintons. But politics is the art of turning the sanguinary into the sanguine,” Howard Fineman writes in Newsweek.

“Obama could use the Clintons’ help, even if he is reluctant to admit it, and the Clintons need to cheerfully join the team (or do a good job of faking it) if they do not want to be dismissed as whiners — or blamed as Machiavellian backstabbers if he loses. …

“The former president is a tougher case [than his wife]. He seems more King Lear than keynote speaker. He seethes over the way the Obama campaign and the media portrayed him in the primaries,” Mr. Fineman said.

“His rage erupted during a trip to Africa intended to show that he was now devoting his life to the charitable work of his foundation. ‘I am not a racist,’ a red-faced Clinton declared to ABC. ‘I never made a racist comment.’ As for Obama’s readiness to be president — a key line of attack from Sen. John McCain — Clinton was able to muster this: ‘You can argue that nobody is ready to be president.’”

No party

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is hardly reticent about touting himself as a Democrat. After all, he’s the vice president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and in January was re-elected its representative to the Democratic National Committee. But in ABC and NBC news stories Thursday night about how a Michigan judge ordered him to jail immediately for violating his bond, neither identified him as a Democrat (verbally or on screen) — not even in a full two-minute NBC story,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“On CBS, fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell didn’t mention Kilpatrick’s party in three teases/plugs for the upcoming story, nor in the introduction to it, but two-thirds into his report, Dean Reynolds, who in a March story failed to ID Kilpatrick, referenced: ‘Once a rising star in Democratic Party politics …’

“Making that same ‘rising star’ point, from a smoggy (or foggy?) Beijing, NBC anchor Brian Williams managed to avoid mentioning Kilpatrick’s party affiliation: ‘Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was once viewed as a rising political star in the United States. Tonight he has fallen pretty far from those early lofty and glowing predictions.’ Two of the cable news networks were no more accurate.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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