- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

A KNOCKOUT

“It was a tale of two speeches. One was clear, direct and powerful. Barack Obama gave the other speech,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“It would have been heresy to write those words any other time, so commanding has President Obama been with the spoken word. But the real Mission Impossible was to imagine that wheezy old Dick Cheney would be the speaker to best Obama. Yet that happened last week, and I predict it won’t be a fluke. From here on out, results will increasingly trump the sensation of Obama’s high-toned lectures every time,” Mr. Goodwin wrote.

“Especially if they are as dreary as last Thursday’s, which was so disingenuous and self-reverential as to be one of the low moments of his presidency. Besides not being able to clearly lay out his plan for Guantanamo detainees, Obama never mentioned what will happen to others we capture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we will take no more prisoners?

“Meanwhile, the occasion showed that Cheney, the darkest of dark horses, is emerging as a fact checker in exile. With Democrats holding all Washington power, the ex-veep’s willingness to challenge Obama’s narrative of the war on terror is a poor substitute for an institutional check-and-balance, but it’s all we have.

“In that sense, Cheney’s ability to outduel Obama could mark a turning point in the debate on this and other critical issues. His TKO over the president recalls the three most important things in real estate: Location, location, location. The key to Cheney’s powerful performance: Facts, facts, facts.”

OUTSMARTED

” ‘Minnesota nice’ comes in two forms: the first, gracious hospitality; the second, smiling stubbornness. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty this week delivered his spendthrift legislature a humiliating taste of the latter. You betcha,” Kimberley A. Strassel Wall Street Journal columnist writes.

“If Republicans are looking to get back their conservative groove, they could do worse than study Minnesota’s budget brawl. Mr. Pawlenty deftly (and amusingly) outmaneuvered his Democratic opposition, not only saving his state from huge tax increases but clearing the way to cut government spending. Call it a refreshing break from the financial-crisis norm,” the writer said.

“Like most states, Minnesota has been facing a huge budget shortfall - an estimated $4.6 billion over two years. These dire financial straits didn’t deter the DFL-controlled legislature (the DFL is Minnesota’s chapter of the Democratic Party), which got to work on big new spending bills. Included were not just the usual increases in appropriations but gems like $1.2 million in grants for TV and film producers and $200,000 for a youth environmental education program. Recession? What recession? To fill in the hole they’d blown in the upcoming fiscal budget the DFL then proceeded to float every tax hike known to Garrison Keillor.

“Throughout this spectacle, Mr. Pawlenty kept voicing three simple principles. ‘Number one, we must have [because of the constitution] and should have a balanced budget,’ he told me. ‘Number two, the state government needs to live within its means, just like everybody else. Number three, we shouldn’t raise taxes in the worst recession in 60 years.’ Minnesota already has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation.

“The DFL wasn’t listening. As the clock wound down (the session ended at midnight this past Monday), the legislature sent Mr. Pawlenty one large spending bill after another. The assumption was he’d veto them, be forced to call a special session, and then be negotiated into tax hikes. That’s when the governor got Minnesota nice.

“Upon receiving the last spending bill, he announced that he would exercise the power of ‘unallotment,’ which has been on the books since 1939 and which has been used four times. Under it, the governor is allowed to ‘unallot’ (take away) any state spending for which there is no money to pay. Panicked, the DFL passed tax legislation to cover its blowout spending bills, 10 minutes before the session’s end. Too late. The governor said he’d veto the bill and would not be calling back the legislature to do any more mischief.”

PUSHING SALAZAR

“Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and the state’s two freshman senators are asking President Obama to “seriously consider” appointing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Denver Post reports.

“In a letter sent to the White House on Friday, the Democrats touted the diversity and unique experience Mr. Salazar would bring to the bench - a Westerner who from hard-scrabble beginnings has risen to become one of the country’s most successful Latino politicians.

” ‘He would provide the viewpoint of a Western and Latino leader and bring a wealth of experience from his many years in both the public and private sectors,’ Mr. Ritter said of the push to consider Mr. Salazar to fill the spot being vacated by retiring Justice David Souter.

“The push by Colorado Democrats to boost one of their own appears somewhat last-minute, coming as reports suggest that Mr. Obama could announce a pick as soon as Tuesday,” the newspaper said.

“But it also pleased Hispanics in the state, who had pressed Mr. Ritter and others to be more aggressive in lobbying for Mr. Salazar, a former state attorney general and U.S. senator whose name has been quietly circulated for the appointment for several weeks.”

A STAR IS BORN

“The hottest Republican property out there isn’t former Vice President Dick Cheney but his daughter Liz , who has taken to the airwaves to defend her dad and the whole Bush administration on national security and Guantanamo Bay issues,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“Liz Cheney, who followed the former veep’s hard-hitting speech criticizing President Obama’s policies with a CNN appearance, is becoming so popular in conservative circles that some want her to run for office. ‘She’s awesome. Everyone wants her to run,’ said a close friend.

“But others say that she is unlikely to run for office now because she is raising five young children, helping to write her father’s book, and working on other major conservative projects. ‘She’s a chip off the block!’ said a longtime friend.

“A forceful defender of the administration and her dad, Liz Cheney has been appearing on TV with greater regularity. She brings to the screen a combination of her dad’s steely focus and her mom’s softer touch. ‘It’s a two-fer. She comes off a bit better than he does sometimes,’ a conservative consultant said.”

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

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