- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

LOBBYISTS SMILE

“Washington’s influence industry is humming steadily while the national economy is declining in what several economists predict will be the worst recession in 50 years,” Alexander Bolton reports in the Hill newspaper.

“More than half a million Americans lost jobs last month, and the value of most 401(k) plans plunged, yet government and public-relations pros in town expect to make a lot of money over the next two years,” the reporter said.

“Fueling the industry along K Street is an anticipation of sweeping changes that President-elect Obama and the newly emboldened Democratic Congress will pursue together — from ending Bush administration tax cuts to enacting the broad health reforms proposed during the campaign.

“Such change had the dark-paneled dining room of the Capital Grille, one of the city’s most posh hangouts for lobbyists and lawmakers, packed on a recent afternoon at lunchtime, even though Congress had quit town for the year and traffic downtown was light. …

“A manager at the Capital Grille, where lunch can run a couple hundred dollars, said there’s been no drop-off in business, even while other retailers are reporting their worst Christmas season in decades. …

“‘A number of interests are extremely concerned that they are going to be hit with legislation, and this includes a number of parties who have not had to worry in the Republican era and now see a major threat,’ said Wright Andrews, a partner at the lobbying firm Butera & Andrews, which represents several financial-services firms.

“‘Everyone I’ve talked to thinks it’s going to be a banner year,’ said Andrews. ‘I’m just smiling, quite frankly, at what seems to be happening.’”

TALE OF TWO STATES

“In New York state, we are told that Caroline Kennedy is the favorite for Hillary Clinton’s soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat, and for the usual reasons of celebrity and money,” Froma Harrop writes in the Providence (R.I.) Journal.

“Kennedy would have to run for election in 2010. Gov. David Paterson would also be on the ballot, as would New York’s other senator, Democrat Chuck Schumer,” the columnist said.

“On ABC’s ‘This Week With George Stephanopoulos,’ Cokie Roberts explains that [Mrs. Kennedy’s] ‘name and all that is going to work for the Democratic Party in New York, and that’s the calculation. It’s not how great a senator she’s going to be.’

“And Stephanopoulos adds, ‘They want someone else on the ballot with that star power who can raise the money.’

“Would someone please draw a dark line of distinction between what we call a scandal in Illinois and business as usual in New York? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell a vacant Senate seat, while New York Gov. Paterson is expected to give a Senate seat to the woman whose family can raise lots of money for his benefit.”

CAROLINE’S WOES

“It’s hard to lose an election that isn’t even an election, but it sure does seem like the New York Senate seat is slipping from Caroline Kennedy’s reach,” Nick Ragone writes at donklephant.com.

“Her non-campaign campaign has mostly been a series of missteps, and it seems to be alienating the Democratic rank-and-file,” Mr. Ragone said.

“I’m semi-shocked to see the amount of resistance Caroline’s receiving from within her own party, and even more shocked to see the mainstream media piling it on. Both the New York Times and Politico have taken her flimsy record to task, while the left-wing blogosphere is crying foul over the dynastic nepotism.

“All this organized opposition to her non-candidacy is going to make it difficult for Gov. [David] Paterson to appoint her to Hillary’s seat. Keep in mind, Paterson has his own election to worry about in 2010, and the last thing he needs is a primary challenge from a disgruntled party insider looking for payback. I still think Paterson wants to pick her, but I also think his political instincts are telling him to find someone more qualified.”

A LOT LIKE MAGGIE

“Being listed in fourth place for Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year,’ as Sarah Palin was for 2008, sounds a little like being awarded the Order of Purity (Fourth Class). But it testifies to something important,” John O’Sullivan writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“Though regularly pronounced sick, dying, dead, cremated and scattered at sea, Mrs. Palin is still amazingly around. She has survived more media assassination attempts than Fidel Castro has survived real ones (Cuban official figure: 638). In her case, one particular method of assassination is especially popular, namely the desperate assertion that, in addition to her other handicaps, she is ‘no Margaret Thatcher.’

“Very few express this view in a calm or considered manner,” Mr. O’Sullivan said. “Some employ profanity. Most claim to be conservative admirers of Mrs. Thatcher. Others admit they had always disliked the former British prime minister until someone compared her to ‘Sarracuda’ — at which point they suddenly realized Mrs. Thatcher must have been absolutely brilliant (at least by comparison).

“Inevitably, Lloyd Bentsen’s famous put-down of Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate is resurrected, such as by Paul Waugh (in the London Evening Standard) and Marie Cocco (in The Washington Post): ‘Newsflash! Governor, You’re No Maggie Thatcher,’ sneered Mr. Waugh. Added Ms. Coco, ‘now we know Sarah Palin is no Margaret Thatcher, and no Dan Quayle either!

“Jolly, rib-tickling stuff. But, as it happens, I know Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher is a friend of mine. And as a matter of fact, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin have a great deal in common,” including “a very rare charisma.”

Palin backlash

“The Sarah Palin backlash — or comeback — is under way,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“Misused by the McCain campaign, then dissed by anonymous McCainiacs as a haughty diva, those who think the senator and his staff are to blame are starting to speak out. And we’re not talking about those who traveled with the Alaska governor who quickly took a shining to her and chafed when the McCain team botched her coming out on the campaign trail,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Now I’m hearing from key Republicans on Capitol Hill and GOP pollsters who believe that the McCain campaign should have put her out to talk about energy and political independence — her two best issues — instead of making her the conservative attack dog.”

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

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