- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A little too frugal

“Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is getting famous for running a remarkably frugal campaign. But now the candidate says his team is going too far to save a penny,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“While he credits top aide Chip Saltsman for being ‘probably the most penny-pinching, cost-conscious campaign manager I’ve ever seen,’ Huck tells us some moves are just downright cheap. Take his recent stop at an airport hotel in Houston. He called his wife, Janet, after checking in: ‘If I don’t call you at 7 in the morning, call Houston police and have them come look for me. We just checked into this hotel and I swear that I’m the only guy in this hotel that has sleeves and is not covered by tattoos. And I’m pretty sure that I might be in a chalk outline by morning.’

“He later buzzed Saltsman and barked, ‘I don’t mind tight budgets, but for God’s sake, man, I’d just as soon sleep on a park bench than where we’re staying.’ ”

Finally ‘proud’

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, said yesterday that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.”

“What we have learned over this past year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country,” Mrs. Obama told a rally in Milwaukee.

“And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I’ve seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issue, and it’s made me proud.”

Defending McCain

Conservative commentator Ramesh Ponnuru defends John McCain in the latest issue of National Review.

“John McCain has never voted to raise income taxes, and he told me last year that he could see no circumstances under which he would ever assent to a tax increase. Instead he wants to cut taxes,” Mr. Ponnuru writes.

“He calls himself the strongest free trader in the Senate since Phil Gramm, his campaign co-chairman, left that body. He has a longer track record of consistent opposition to abortion than any of his primary opponents. He promises to veto bills with pork-barrel spending, he voted against expanding Medicare, and he wants personal accounts for Social Security. He consistently voted to keep those guns that critics call ‘assault weapons’ legal. He has voted to confirm all the conservative justices on the Supreme Court and promises to nominate like-minded colleagues for them.

“Should conservatives consider McCain to be one of their number, or be upset about his nomination? The answers to these two questions, heavily debated in recent weeks, depend on how high conservatives set the bar for politicians. If our criterion is that they must reason from conservative-first principles to policy conclusions, then McCain is not a conservative. If our criterion is that they must agree with most self-described conservatives on nearly every important issue, then McCain is, again, not a conservative.

“Using those definitions, Reagan is the only conservative president we have had in modern times. That judgment is defensible. But it should put into perspective the notion that, in McCain, a calamity has just befallen conservatives.”


It’s one of his funniest campaign jokes, getting huge laughs, but it underscores what could be absolutely crucial to Barack Obama’s White House hopes: the fact that some Republicans secretly back him.

“There’s one right there, an ‘Obamacan,’ that’s what we call them,” the Democratic senator declared last week after winning primary contests for his party’s presidential nomination in Maryland, the District and Virginia.

“They whisper to me. They say, ‘Barack, I’m a Republican, but I support you.’ And I say, ‘Thank you. Why are we whispering?’ ”

Mr. Obama has cracked the joke in every campaign speech since his win in Iowa on Jan. 3, Agence France-Presse reports. He tells it with a stage whisper into the mike, and can get a stadium packed with 16,000 supporters to burst out laughing.

But the point is not just to warm up the crowd: Mr. Obama is also underscoring that he has the ability to win and then govern effectively, transcending partisan strains, unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is strongly disliked by conservatives.

Defending an ‘ism’

“In the foreign policy establishment, among progressives of all stripes, and even for significant segments of the conservative movement, ‘neoconservatism’ has come to stand for all that has gone wrong in American foreign policy over the last seven years — especially in Iraq. Yet much of the criticism misses the mark,” Peter Berkowitz writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“For starters, it’s worth noting that the president, vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state and the national security adviser all lacked neoconservative roots. And insofar as neoconservative thinkers influenced Iraq policy, the problem was not with neoconservative principles, but the failure to fully appreciate the implications of those principles,” said Mr. Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a visiting professor at Georgetown University.

“Neoconservatism was never a well-developed school of foreign policy like realism or idealism. Nor is it a reflex, like isolationism or multilateralism. It was only with the Iraq war that neoconservatism came to be falsely identified by its critics with a single crude foreign policy idea — that the United States should use military force, unilaterally if need be, to overthrow tyrants and to establish democracy.”

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

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