Politics & Policy

The Bush Campaign, in Swing; The Euros and The Dems; The End of Abbas–and More

Shall we start with a little politics? Maybe a lot? I’ll be as brief as possible.

For those Bush supporters who doubted that the White House had the stomach for a campaign, this has been a reassuring week–a couple of reassuring weeks, actually. The Bushies are out of their corner and punching. They responded pretty quickly to Mr. Clarke–forcefully, too.

You may have noticed that, when he first peddled his wares, Clarke himself said, “I’m sure they [the Bushies] will launch their dogs on me.” That’s Democrat-speak (or anti-Bush-speak) for, “Republicans are actually going to have a say in this matter. Are not going to remain silent. The cheek!”

Condi counterpunches pretty well, and Dick Cheney actually takes to the radio waves with Rush. Says the veep, “It’s very important we get our side of the story out.” You don’t say? Bravo, Dick. “The fact of the matter is, we just recently got started. The Democrats have been out there since September, roughly–launching attacks against the president and me.”

(No, don’t you listen to Richard Clarke, Mr. Vice President? You launch dogs, not attacks.)

White House spokesman Scott McClellan uttered a line that I thought stayed on the happy side of cutesy: “This is Dick Clarke’s American Grandstand: He just keeps changing the tune.” Cheap, maybe–obvious, maybe–but nice.

We’ve said it a thousand times: This administration has a superb case to make for itself. But it falls to them–to the Bushies–to make it. It falls chiefly to the president himself. We Republican conservatives expect no help from the press, from the “free media.” We have to earn our keep, earn our votes–kill what we eat.

So, no whining. Just do it.

‐Funny about the Bush administration vs. the Clinton administration: The Bushies take heavy flak from ex-Bushies, such as Paul O’Neill, the Treasury secretary, and Dick Clarke (who was never really a Bushie, to be sure). The Clinton people, however, religiously circled the wagons around their guy. All through Lewinsky. All through everything–no one uttered a peep.

Rich Lowry and I were talking about this a bit ago. Dick Morris wrote a book, of course, but he was more an independent operator than a Clintonite. Robert Reich wrote a book, but he mainly complained that Clinton wasn’t left enough on economic policy–it was a wonky dissent. The only resignations (on principle) from the Clinton administration took place in the Department of Health and Human Services; those were over the president’s signing of (Republican) welfare reform.

Of course, Clinton probably helped himself by not firing people–by letting them stay on: My goodness, Janet was AG for eight years. And Clinton must have hated her for at least, what–seven of those?

I’m all for insider accounts. I’m also for confidentiality in internal councils. (Bit of a contradiction there, wouldn’t you say?) I guess, above all, I’m for honesty, prudence, and justice. Just like you, I realize.

‐It seems to me that McCain has been doing his utmost–or nearly his utmost–for the Kerry campaign. Think he’d like to see W. lose? Ho ho ho. And McCain’s comments are in part intended to communicate, I believe, “I’m still here. I matter. Listen to me. Don’t mess around with me. I have the ear of the press whenever I want. And I can hurt you–you Republicans.”

I remember, in 1988, Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke out strongly for his fellow senator, Dan Quayle, who was being battered. Michael Dukakis was the Dem nominee, and, as far as Ted K. was concerned, that was the wrong major liberal politician from Massachusetts. Kennedy didn’t want to be ignored, didn’t want to be shoved in the background like an embarrassing dinosaur. So he made some noises in favor of Quayle.

The nice thing about covering or commenting on politics: Things tend not to change. (Hang on, that’s a nice thing? I’ll have to think about that.) (Later.)

‐Democrats–e.g., Madeleine Albright–have been condemning Bush anti-terror policy, excusing themselves, pointing the finger at their successors. It seems to me that–given the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Khobar Towers; the African embassies; the Cole–these people ought to entertain a little humility. Ought to tread lightly, certainly when it comes to their public remarks. They were chastened, in the weeks, and maybe months, after 9/11. But they found their voices, didn’t they? And those voices were true to their character.

‐I was a bit impressed with the president after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting–that won’t surprise you, I know. He said, “I assured my team that America is not going to blink in the face of the attacks that took place in Spain. As a matter of fact, we’ll continue to rally the world to fight off terror.”

Bull’s-eye. Well said.

And he continued his campaign to hug Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder to himself, and to split him from France: “I was on the phone today to Gerhard Schroeder, reminding them [the Germans, presumably] that we need to stay strong in the fight on terror. And I appreciated his strong comments today by phone, that he fully understood the stakes. We’re making progress. There is more work to do. And this country will stay on the hunt. The best way to protect our country from further attack is to find the terrorists before they come to our homeland, or anywhere else, to inflict harm.”

Again, bull’s-eye. And by speaking publicly about the Schroeder conversation, he sort of holds the chancellor to it. Slyish.

‐Before we forget him–and we should not forget him–can we praise outgoing Spanish prime minister Aznar?

Said this bold, wise–this great–man two days ago, “When there’s been an attack as brutal as Spain has suffered, when the fight against international terror is everyone’s main battle, one must fulfill responsibilities. I think sending a message that you can beat terrorism with concessions is wrong.”

And I think José María Aznar is a miracle.

‐Equally miraculous is the Europeanization of the Democratic party. They didn’t start that way, believe me–not with Wilson, not with FDR, not with Truman. Not with Jackson (Andrew, that is)! (In fact, my friend and colleague Mike Potemra once advanced the Jacksonian Theory of the Democratic Party: that they went from Andrew to Scoop to Jesse.)

The other day, Ted Kennedy said, “We can only speculate about the real reasons we went to war. . . . America went to war in a dishonest way that alienated key allies, divided and weakened the United Nations, outraged the world community [world community!], made us more hated in the world [not by Afghans and Iraqis], and made the war on terrorism more difficult to win. [He’s interested in that, is he? I thought it was merely a matter of a little law enforcement, and a greater understanding of those angry with us.] . . . The prime minister of Spain paid a high price . . . for supporting us in the war, and for misleading the Spanish people. President Bush is likely to pay a similar high price in November.”

If you can spot the difference between the mainstream of the Democratic party and, say, Dominique de Villepin, you have better eyes than mine.

And here’s Ted when asked whether we were better off with Saddam toppled and in a cell: “The fact is, perhaps the people in Iraq, certainly, but there’s no question that this was a distraction.” I love that perhaps and certainly–I have a feeling that perhaps was his true self.

‐Speaking of the Democrats and the French: Rep. Tom DeLay has taken to beginning his speeches, “Good morning–or as John Kerry might say, ‘Bonjour.’” Cheap. But nice.

‐Think John Edwards is interested in his party’s vice-presidential nomination? Get a load of this (and have your barf bag handy): “We are fortunate because John Kerry has strength and vision, which he has proven at every step of his accomplished lifetime. He has been brilliant and thoughtful and courageous beyond most of our imaginings. [No, really–I am quoting.] He has, too, an iron will that did not waver in this process [the Democratic primary campaign] . . .” Etc., etc.

Allow me to translate: “I’m not running for reelection to the Senate, my presidential campaign fizzled pretty quickly, I have nothing to do, I’ll be forgotten by the next time, please, please, please . . .”

‐Some West Virginians are up in arms because Abercrombie & Fitch–the pornographer that sells clothes on the side–has a T-shirt that says, “It’s All Relative in West Virginia.” I say that when it comes to the perverting of America, Abercrombie & Fitch has it all over “West, by God, Virginia.” And it is a state more beautiful than even the A&F catalogue’s loveliest. It has lovelier people, too.

‐My dear Impromptus-ites, you may have celebrated, several days ago, the death of Abu Abbas. He was in the custody of American forces–he died naturally, or so we’re told. So the Klinghoffer family, and others, were denied justice–or at least some kind of justice.

Abbas, of course, was the leader of the Achille Lauro terror attack–the one in which Leon Klinghoffer was shot, killed, and thrown overboard in his wheelchair. Singled out because he was a Jew. (Mrs. Klinghoffer, who looked on, was spared. She lived to spit into the faces of the murderers–literally. In an Italian jail. This was before they were released. And they were released, of course, by the Italians, in no time.)

I thought of Klinghoffer, and Abbas, a couple of hours ago as I was listening to an orchestral program that included a new work by John Adams. Come again? Yes, Adams is the composer of The Death of Klinghoffer, the opera that endeavors to understand and represent both sides of the Achille Lauro affair–you know, aggrieved Palestinians and Leon Klinghoffer.

Abbas is dead. That opera is not. Win some, lose some.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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