Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Short cuts

Since I have been drafted this morning to write a newspaper analysis for tomorrow's paper on the politics of rising gas prices (which is a somewhat phony political issue, as I mentioned here), permit me on the blog today to employ the Walter Winchell method.

Walter Winchell, for those of you too young to remember, was the radio columnist who always began his broadcast by saying "Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North America, and all the ships at sea" -- and then proceeded to opine in quick bursts on a number of developments, and never at length.
(Stanley Tucci played him in an HBO movie, in case you're interested.)

So let's go to the news. Good morning, Blue State and Red State America:

1. I see that John McCain, in his ongoing quest to undercut his straight-shooter credentials as the price for winning the '08 GOP nomination, is now taking money from a pair of Texas brothers who had pumped $2 million into TV ads that had slimed him as a polluter during the 2000 campaign.
Back then, McCain had assailed the pro-Bush Wyly brothers as "coyotes" whose tactics epitomized "everything I have been fighting against." Back then, McCain said on the stump that the Wylys should "keep their dirty money in the state of Texas." But now he's happy to cash it.
McCain is also taking money from two businessmen who in 2004 contributed a total of $1.3 million to the folks who wrote Swift Boat ads attacking McCain's fellow vet John Kerry. Back then, McCain called those ads "dishonest and dishonorable." But today, McCain aide John Weaver says the senator is happy to welcome anybody who wants to advance McCain's "reformist agenda."
The question, of course, is whether there will still be any "reformist agenda" by the time all of McCain's new establishment friends climb aboard.

2. I see that Tony Snow, the Fox News anchor, is reportedly very close to becoming President Bush's new press secretary. A Fox news guy at the Bush podium...there's a stretch. As the jokesters are wondering: Is the White House going to give him back pay?
But seriously folks, David Gergen, a former White House aide who served a range of presidents, tells CNN that a Snow appointment would be good for America:
"Tony Snow does have the leverage that neither of his predecessors would have had. And that is, if he walks out on (the Bush aides) because they're not open enough, it would be hugely devastating to the administration, so, that he, unlike Scott McClellan, can go in and say, 'gentlemen, this isn't good. The press has a legitimate need here. We have got to give it to them.' And they know that the moment he walks out the door and disgusted, if they are really totally closed or they lie or whatever, that is a bleak, bleak day at the White House."

If Snow is in charge next winter during Scooter Libby's trial, that might be the test.

3. Speaking of Bush, a new poll in Connecticut puts his approval rating there at a sub-Nixonian 24 percent. One might assume that this could spell trouble for several GOP congressmen who are seeking re-election in that state. But maybe the Nutmeg mood might be a bigger burden for Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman - staunch defender of the Iraq war, and the 2005 recipient of a televised cheek smooch from the president himself.
Lieberman is being challenged in a primary by a liberal antiwar mogul named Ned Lamont, and he's already being forced to air TV ads for the first time in over a decade("I already know that some of you feel passionately against my position in Iraq. I respect your views, and while we probably won't change each others' minds, I hope we can still have a dialogue and find common ground on all the issues where we do agree,'' he says to the camera.)
Quite a comedown for a guy who fell just a few hanging chads short of being vice president of the United States.

4. I wrote the other day about Democratic congressman Allan Mollohan, and his apparent attempt to singlehandedly undercut his party's "culture of corruption" attack on the GOP. Now I see that today's Wall Street Journal has found a new tidbit:
Last year, Mollohan apparently bought a 300-acre farm, in partnership with the head of a defense firm that had collected a $2.1 million contract -- thanks to a little codicil that Mollohan slipped into a 2005 spending bill.
I think it was the late Spy Magazine that used to call this kind of behavior "Log Rolling in Our Time."

5. I was startled to open my email last night and discover a letter from two congressional leaders assailing "price-fixing, collusion, gouging, and other anti-competitive practices" and calling for a government investigation of the oil companies. It has to be Chuck Schumer, right? Or maybe the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee? Or maybe a grassroots group that was borrowing a phrase from Jimmy Carter's populist outbursts during the late '70s?
Nope. This was House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
It's interesting how election-year panic can make two avowed conservatives sound like liberals.

6. A clever political move by Hillary Clinton. She has requested that the Senate Armed Services Committee provide a forum for all those retired military brass who have been assailing the Iraq war and demanding the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. She thinks they should be allowed to "air their views" in a hearing.
As a tactic, it's a potential win-win for Clinton:
If a majority of the committee members agree to invite those guys to a hearing (all 11 Democrats would vote yes, and they'd only need two of the 13 Republicans), then the hearing itself would embarrass the Bush administration. Yet if the committee refuses to hold a hearing, or insists that such a hearing should be closed to the public, either of those scenarios would look like a coverup...and also embarrass the administration.
Either way, she'd be keeping the dissident generals front and center. She herself hasn't even joined their call for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Well, I guess I'm not much good at Winchellesque brevity. But here's one:
More entries later.