Washington is a mad, mad, mad world today, with news leads proliferating as quickly as congressional Enron hearings.
Speaking of which, Ken Lay's resignation, on which the dust continues to settle today, works to keep the laser beam of press and Capitol Hill scrutiny on Lay and the company and away from the White House, even as key Senate and House committees convene hearings on the company's collapse.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan visits with the Senate Banking Committee today and possibly gives some clues as to the Fed's plans for interest rates.
President Bush, accompanied by homeland security chief Tom Ridge, addresses a group of mayors and county officials, and probably parcels out more details of the increased funding for local homeland security efforts that will appear in his State of the Union address and his budget. He also meets with his Cabinet.
Two potential, if not likely, Democratic presidential candidates for 2004 make some high-profile maneuvers today.
And Laura Bush becomes the first Republican first lady to testify before Congress.
Less visible, but nevertheless controlling the political thermostat in Washington: Democrats are reacting cautiously today to the wartime president's proposed hike in defense spending, mirroring the reaction of the White House and some Republican lawmakers to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's slimmed-down stimulus proposal.
While Texas Reps. Dick Armey and Tom DeLay are, as usual, among the exceptions to this kind of rule, some rank-and-file Republicans nervously looking toward November might not agree with them.
And some Democrats are having flashbacks to the 1980s: They already are at risk of regaining their anti-tax cut scarlet A's — the last thing they need is to add on the kind of anti-defense tag that kept them out of the White House for most of 20 years.
While the CBO estimates get lots of play in the papers, it's likely that most of America didn't notice, amidst the flood of John Walker Lindh video, more of which will come today.
The second-day stimpak stories overall seem to suggest a tone of cautious optimism, at least for the proposal's fate in the Senate. The Wall Street Journal says that although Senate Republicans have agreed to start debating the stimulus bill today (with amendments allowed to Daschle's new float), "Republicans hope to stretch out the debate beyond Tuesday, when President Bush comes to the Capitol to deliver the … State of the Union."
The Washington Post reports, "Vowing to bring up the consensus proposals as the Senate's first order of business, Daschle said they could be passed immediately, possibly by the end of the week. The White House and Republicans continued to argue that a more 'comprehensive' package was needed, including income tax rate cuts. But, politically at least, the plan helped Daschle shed the 'obstructionist' label and shift the onus to Republicans if they choose to block a compromise. As of late yesterday, Senate Republicans were still reviewing Daschle's proposal, and some House Republicans criticized its details." (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24772-2002Jan23.html )
The Washington Times notes, "Some Republicans said Mr. Daschle came back to the bargaining table because he was feeling pressure to act before Mr. Bush delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday. 'The sense is, the speeches from Senator Daschle and Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy have put them in a very bad political position,' said a Senate Republican aide. 'They'd like to get this monkey off their back as soon as possible.'" ( http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020124-533119.html )
Roll Call adds that "Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) appeared to emerge from the White House meeting more encouraged by any sign of possible progress on the economic stimulus front … But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) said he was not at all impressed by Daschle's slimmed-down stimulus proposal. 'He has the votes to pass real stimulus now,' Davis said. 'I think he is just trying to delay.'" ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/01/news0124a.html )
Meanwhile, companion stories in most papers cover Democrats' cautious and pretty scant (so far) reactions to Bush's push for more defense spending. The Los Angeles Times reports, "Even Democrats who have been critical of Bush for allowing deficits to blossom did not speak ill of his defense proposal, even if they did not immediately endorse it either. 'Our top priority is to defend the nation,' said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. 'We will provide the resources to do it.' But he warned that there would be no 'blank check' for defense. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said it was too early to say how much Congress would provide for defense, adding, 'We recognize we're fighting a war on terrorism.'" ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-000006151jan24.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia )
The Washington Post writes, "Top Senate Democrats said the huge request will meet heavy skepticism, particularly at a time when the government has returned to budget deficits. Earlier in the day, Bush had brought up a sensitive issue that hangs over the 2002 elections when he assured congressional leaders, 'I have no ambition to use the war as a political issue.'" ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25580-2002Jan23.html )
From the Boston Globe: "Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who last week called for delaying part of the president's $1.35 trillion tax cut package, yesterday said he would review the president's defense request as a member of the Armed Services Committee. 'Clearly, ensuring that our military has the necessary resources to fight the war on terrorism and to protect against future attacks is a top priority for all of us in Congress,' he said, adding that he hoped Bush would 'give high priority to the urgent challenges we face at home as well.'" ( http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/024/nation/Bush_calls_for_48b_increase_in_defense+.shtml )
Roll Call throws out another possible task for Daschle: consolidating the proliferating committee invetigations into Enron. ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/01/news0124a.html )
Two Democrats widely believed to be hankering for Bush's job will take measured shots at the administration today. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut will preside over the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Enron hearing featuring former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt. But he'll do so under heavy scrutiny given his own ties to the company.
As the Washington Post notes, "Lieberman has labeled the Enron story a 'corporate scandal,' and indicated he wants to use the hearings to explore the role of the SEC, the Department of Energy and other oversight agencies." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28453-2002Jan23.html )
USA Today adds, "Lieberman's role as chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee has led to a string of less-than-flattering news notes," then neatly lists them all. ( http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020124/3799579s.html )
The other contender, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, today will deliver what his staff has billed as a major, forward-looking (i.e., does not address the current budget situation) economic speech, sponsored by the Democratic Leadership Council. A summary provided in advance includes some rhetoric intended to build expectations for Bush's State of the Union (and Gephardt's response to it).
The release, which hints at additional "major policy addresses," notes that Gephardt will elaborate on four goals: U.S. energy independence within a decade (calling John Kerry … ); better training and education of the workforce, including a "Teachers Corps" and income tax breaks for college tuition; pension reform (calling Enron … ); and investments in a "homeland security trust fund" and a "defense tracking system."
Attorney General John Ashcroft and the assistant attorney general for civil rights will hold a news conference today on an unrelated topic (human trafficking), but may address the war or John Walker Lindh.
From the ABCNEWS London Bureau: Pope John Paul II is leading other religious leaders in a day of prayers for peace in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis … Former Lebanese minister and pro-Israeli Christian militia leader Elie Hobeika has been killed in an explosion outside his house in Beirut. First reports indicate that the blast was caused by a car bomb. No word so far as to who might have been responsible for the attack. Hobeika was heavily implicated in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Chatilla camps in west Beirut in 1982. It's been alleged that last week Hobeika met with the Belgian court officials, who are considering whether to accept a suit against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon filed by Palestinian survivors of the massacre. Hobeika said in July last year that he is willing to testify, and he would have been a major witness.
Also: Afghanistan's national carrier made its first international flight Thursday in nearly two and a half years. Its lone Boeing 727 taking off from Kabul to New Delhi marked the latest milestone in the struggle to get Ariana Afghan Airlines off the ground again.
The Washington Post welcomes the opening day of Enron on Capitol Hill and probably drives business interests berserk by urging Congress to impose new disclosure regulations. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28614-2002Jan23.html )
The Wall Street Journal says Army Secretary Thomas E. White, a former Enron executive, disclosed that he had spoken with former Enron colleagues on 30 occasions in the past seven months. He said he met with Enron President Lawrence "Greg" Whalley on Oct. 4, weeks before the company began seeking government help to ward off bankruptcy. All of the contacts were "personal in nature" and involved conversations about "the general financial condition of Enron," he said, but no one asked him to intercede on the corporation's behalf.
Rick Berke makes a must-read of the second-day analysis of the president's invocation of his mother-in-law's Enron stock loss. The central question in the story is why the president seemed to change tone and emphasis — from concern to anger — over Enron in West Virginia on Tuesday. White House aides deny any change on the record, and say the president has been talking for weeks about his mother-in-law and others who have been affected. But Berke plucks out this notion, that partisan Democrats will claim to be shocked, shocked! by: "More pragmatically, [Bush advisers] said polling for the Republican Party has shown that Mr. Bush's relationship to energy companies is one of his biggest vulnerabilities." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/politics/24POLI.html )
You need to read this one all the way to the end, if only to learn more about the cementing of babies.
As long as Enron is hot, it will infect pretty much any legislative effort it arguably touches. For example, the bankruptcy bill that has been in House-Senate conference since last year is now officially Enroned, says the New York Times , as members and special pleaders look to make changes in light of lessons supposedly learned. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/business/24BILL.html )
The New York Times lead business story says that those who think Congress is headed toward stricter standards on accounting firms aren't paying attention to where the votes are. Although a few Democrats have made such moves, "no Republicans have said they are willing to be cosponsors of the measures, and administration officials, who continue to embrace a broad deregulatory agenda, have been critical of enlarging the role of government in overseeing the accounting industry. The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a speech (Wednesday) that his agency should not extend its regulatory reach in overseeing the accounting profession, and should rely instead on officials from the corporate world to monitor the auditors." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/business/24REGU.html )
And the Wall Street Journal has a nice companion story, looking at the history of efforts by some members of Congress (now transformed into swashbuckling investigators) who in the past have fought off changes in accounting rules. Among those whose past roles are dissected (but not as much as they will be in the political future): Sen. Lieberman.
The Wall Street Journal says the Bush administration is in the midst of stacking the SEC with commissioners with close ties to the accounting industry, raising Groucho eyebrows in some quarters, what with the whole Andersen/Enron thing and all. The White House, which routinely avoids controversy on a range of things because of the war/Enron/budget maelstroms, even did some recess appointments here.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page takes a clear-eyed view at the populist outrage over the Enron pension situation, and discovers that there might be less there than meets the populist eye: "[W]hile the Enron pension story is tragic, it's more about specific corporate blunders and wrongdoing than it is about flaws in pension law or in 401(k)s. It's certainly no excuse for Congress to lobotomize a private pension system that has given millions of Americans a comfortable retirement."
USA Today considers whether or not Enron's investment in Washington worked to its benefit, and finds that it did. "It didn't attain every goal. But Enron got enough favors from government to allow it to create its own unregulated marketplace for the buying and selling of energy futures contracts and a host of other products. The company's message to the public, in a slick TV ad campaign touting its innovative spirit, was "Ask why.' But its message to government overseers often seemed to be 'Don't ask.'" ( http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020124/3799465s.html )
Rep. Henry Waxman sounds a tiny bit defensive to us in his Washington Post op-ed: "Last week, the Bush administration gave its clearest 'tell' yet that it doesn't like its Enron hand. In response to my inquiries about contacts between administration officials and Enron executives, a senior White House official warned: 'Waxman risks transforming himself into the Dan Burton of the Democrats' … Republican White Houses rarely throw gratuitous insults at senior Republican members of Congress like Mr. Burton, the chairman of the Government Reform Committee. To make sure the message wasn't lost, the White House press secretary later called my efforts a 'partisan waste of taxpayer money.' These blunt personal attacks signal a high level of White House anxiety: Its strategy is to discredit me and make other Democrats nervous about investigating Enron's influence on White House policies." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28606-2002Jan23.html )
Rep. John Dingell, invigorated to the point of gangbuster-dom by the Enron/Andersen situation, has a New York Times op-ed calling on the White House to release more about the energy task force records. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/opinion/24DING.html )
The Boston Globe runs its version of "Democrats took Enron money, too." ( http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/024/nation/Enron_ties_may_also_tar_Democrats+.shtml )
Hot potato indeed: Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, tried to give an Enron donation to a charter school in his state, but the school has decided they don't want it, either, and plans to give it to a fund for Enron employees. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/national/24BRFS.html )
The Economy / Budget Politics
The best budget story of the day leads the Wall Street Journal , which reviews Wednesday's deficit news, then widens out to include the implications of the new numbers for substantive policy going forward. It also previews the Greenspan testimony today: "The Fed Chairman himself was among those who assured Congress a year ago about the likelihood of sustained, big budget surpluses, and assured politicians that President Bush's tax cut was affordable. Mr. Greenspan is to return to the Senate Budget Committee Thursday to address the changes in the fiscal and economic outlook since then, and is expected to face heated questioning on those assurances."
If you have the time and the inclination, the Washington Post breaks down the budget: ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28268-2002Jan23.html ).
Al Hunt's Wall Street Journal column is intended to stiffen the spine of Democrats who are afraid to take the Republicans on on the tax cut issue: "The White House and Republicans are winning this tax fight in the short term. The Kennedy proposals scare more than few Democrats: The president is not going to capitulate, so why draw the issue, the Nervous Nellies proclaim."
"So, why? Simple: because it's right and ultimately good politics. In this week's Wall Street Journal /NBC News poll, the public, by a decisive margin, would rather delay tax cuts for the wealthy than reduce domestic spending."
And Hunt suggests Greenspan get asked today whether he still supports triggers for future tax cuts to peg them to surpluses.
Bob Novak chastizes the White House for appointing too many accomodationists to the board that just voted to give United Airlines machinists a big raise, and sees in this deed potential doom for the the airline industry, as well as signs that the Administration's domestic policy operation is soft and incompetent — to the point that Novak suggests he and other conservatives are nostalgic for the way Clinton buddy Bruce Lindsey handled airline matters. ( http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak24.html )
Today's New York Times story on the economy is upbeat, with consumer spending, mortgage rates, and tax cuts giving cause for optimism, and maybe tamping down demand for a stimulus bill from Washington. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/business/24ECON.html )
The Wall Street Journal front-pages the news that gas prices are becoming more unstable, which means price increases are distinctly possible in an election year.
Bleak's in the house: the Wall Street Journal blares: "The growing number of unemployment compensation claims is threatening to fully deplete state unemployment trust funds for the first time in nearly a decade."
The Wall Street Journal says Speaker Hastert assumes that campaign finance reformers are going to get the signatures necessary to force a floor vote in the House and "[i]n preparation for the floor fight ahead, the House GOP is expected to devote a portion of the party's coming annual retreat to strategizing on how to defeat the reform bill in today's Enron environment."
USA Today has a good story on the various hot-button environmental issues likely to pop up in the next few months, complete with a nifty chart that shows up well online. ( http://www.usatoday.com/news/washdc/jan02/2002-01-24-usat-environment.html )
"Liberal groups today will highlight the record of a conservative judge as part of their campaign to tarnish President Bush's judicial nominees as right-wingers who will 'seriously threaten the rights of all Americans,'" the Washington Times (in its usual niche) reports. "Such organizations as People for the American Way, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the Alliance for Justice and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights plan a press conference on the 'problematic record' of Mississippi District Judge Charles W. Pickering … The report is expected to include criticism of the pro-life stance of Judge Pickering, who has been nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Pickering was chairman of the first national Republican platform committee that called for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion." ( http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020124-461104.html )
The Washington Times also notes how little controversy there actually was over President's Bush once highly controversial recess appointments. ( http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020124-738545.html )
As Senate Majority Leader Daschle plans to reconvene debate over the farm bill, the Washington Post offers a good look at how the inefficient snarl of farm subsidies is not only never going to go away, but how the money is going to fewer farmers in larger amounts, and not always to the struggling, Willie Nelson-type farm families everyone prefers to envision. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28240-2002Jan23.html )
ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary
Dick Gephardt made it onto CBS' Early Show this morning at his populist best, decrying Enron executives as "immoral." Bryant Gumbel gave him an inordinately free and explicit shot to preview his economic speech today, and the congressman took the chance to do it, then fought off Bryant's half-hearted attempt to get him to declare his intention to seek the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination right on the show.
Of course, he'll have a bigger day next Tuesday with his response to the SOTU, but Gephardt's speech today gets advance clips in the Los Angeles Times and hometown paper the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the wires, and mentions in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post .
John DiStaso's influential "Granite Status" column in the Manchester Union-Leader leads today with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's upcoming keynote speaking slot at the New Hampshire Democrats' 100 Club dinner on Saturday, March 2 at the Marriott Courtyard in Concord. ( http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_show.html )?article=8320
More from the USA Today story on Lieberman: "Labor unionists say that Lieberman's name does not come up in conversations about the 2004 race and that he'd be hard-pressed to get the AFL-CIO endorsement or to succeed in the key Iowa caucuses, where labor organizers drive turnout. 'He's too conservative for the metropolitan area of New York,' says Jonathan Nagler, an elections specialist at New York University. 'He's too conservative for a whole lot of the West Coast.' On the other hand, analysts say, he has many diehard fans in Jewish areas of California, New York and Florida; his high profile means he should have little trouble raising money; and his moderate stands could reel in independents in the New Hampshire primary, which permits non-affiliated voters to cast ballots in either party's primary." ( http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020124/3799579s.html )
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond offers up this rebuke of Daschle in a Washington Times op-ed: "Tom Daschle is a smart, articulate, hard-nosed but likeable politician. It's time to admit, however, what he is not, and that is the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. Mr. Daschle holds the title but not the power to act the part because he lacks an ideological majority that is essential to govern." Bond then tries to up the pressure on Daschle to declare his intentions by charging that he's running for president. ( http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20020124-23421008.html )
Jules Witcover wrote about Al Gore's expected re-emergence Wednesday. ( http://www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.witcover23jan23.column?coll=bal%2Doped%2Dheadlines
The key, just-right parts: "Meanwhile, there is not exactly a Democratic groundswell for Mr. Gore to jump back into the arena. Part of it is an awareness that Mr. Bush continues to enjoy a political halo effect as leader of the war on terrorism. But part of it remains a hangover from disappointment in Mr. Gore as a candidate in 2000, after which he was criticized as having frittered away the Bill Clinton political inheritance."
"Sooner or later, however, Mr. Gore is going to have to reassert himself as a strong voice in the party on issues he has impressive credentials to champion, such as the environment and energy policy, if he hopes to resurrect his leadership image in his party."
"From a purely political point of view, no other Democrat has yet very effectively filled the void. The Democratic leaders in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, have done their best to blame Mr. Bush's 2001 tax cut for the disappearance of the surplus left by the Clinton-Gore era. But the field for the 2004 Democratic nomination remains wide open."
The New York Times previews the President's Feb. 6 trip to New York to visit Mayor Michael Bloomberg's house and the Sheraton to do some fund-raising work for Gov. George Pataki, who has mastered the art of raising money as a Republican in the Empire State. It's $15,000 a head to get into the mayor's house. The story also looks at the mayor's evolving place within the GOP, and how this trip will factor into that. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/nyregion/24FINA.html )
The New York Post calls it "the state's hottest-ever Republican ticket" and suggests the two events could raise a cool $2 million. ( http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/39803.html )
Chalk it up to her impressive press staff (who have figured out how to handle the special rhythms of New York, Washington, and her life); chalk it up to her own, often underrated skills; or chalk it up to the president's success in changing the tone of Washington, but you have to marvel at the incredibly good press coverage that goes to the junior senator of New York (aka Hillary Rodham Clinton). For a woman who used to get routinely negative coverage, this is indeed an amazing turn of events.
The latest example is a New York Times piece that her crack press staff probably will e-mail to us later today. Memo to Jim Kennedy: We've already read it. The prototypical sentence: "But over the last year, Mrs. Clinton has surprised many of her colleagues with a series of personal gestures that have served not only to soften her image but also to help her fit into the clubby world of the Senate, where schmoozing and one-on-one politics go a long way." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/politics/24CLIN.html )
USA Today runs a second review of the Tuesday night debate between California's Republican gubernatorial candidates after getting some Riordan strategists to admit anonymously that Richard Riordan's performance was "shaky." ( http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-000006050jan24.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia )
Meanwhile, California political strategist Dan Schnur, formerly of the Riordan campaign, seeks to re-establish himself as an unaffiliated GOP commentator with an LA Times op-ed on how all three candidates are botching the party's chance to get Gov. Gray Davis. ( http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-000005932jan24.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dcomment%2Dopinions )
Roll Call covers the Democratic National Committee's scaling back of its financial commitment to the party's House redistricting effort, from as much as $13 million to $1.5 million, as a sign of confidence that Democrats have gone a long way toward stymying the GOP's chances to carve out an advantage heading into the midterm elections. The Republican House campaign committee beats its chest spinning this as Democrats recognizing that it would be a waste of money because of how well the GOP is going to do. We wonder if it might have anything to do with the DNC's finances. ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/politics/00/2002/01/pol0124b.html )
Washington insiders watch closely every jot and tickle in 2002 Senate race developments so, per usual, we bring you the key ones from this cycle:
In a slight change from the norm, the Republican Senate campaign committee raised $53.5 million in 2001 — about what both the Republican National Committee and the GOP House campaign committee each spent — and only spent $31 million of that. ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/01/news0124d.html )
The National Federation of Independent Business will grant former Rep. Jim Talent its first U.S. Senate endorsement of 2002, in Kansas City, Mo., today.
The Torch has a friend in Senate Judicary ranking member Orrin Hatch, who has called on the Senate Ethics Committee to dump its probe of the senator from New Jersey. ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/01/news0124b.html )
More than a dozen Clinton luminaries raised dough for North Carolina Senate candidate Erskine Bowles in Washington last night. No word on the take, but a spokesperson said it would be "significant." ( http://www.newsobserver.com/thursday/news/nc/Story/905708p-904308c.html )
Norm Coleman, the popular former mayor of St. Paul who is challenging Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, raised more than $2 million last year, financial disclosure records show. Coleman has $1.4 million on hand, compared to Wellstone's $1.2 million. The big numbers reflect, in part, Republican coordinated efforts to prop up Coleman's candidacy as much as possible, given the slim hold the Dems have on the Senate. ( http://www.startribune.com/stories/587/1119506.html )
And the Democrats remain in overdrive, trying to link Elizabeth Dole to Enron in any way they can, and having some success with the North Carolina papers. ( http://www.newsobserver.com/thursday/news/Story/905709p-904308c.html )
Bush Administration Strategy/Personality
John Harwood writes up the new Wall Street Journal /NBC News poll, with emphasis on the president's popularity and the fact that only 5 percent of Americans blame him for the recession.
The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein looks at Karl Rove's controversial comments last week from a different direction: whether or not he's RIGHT in suggesting "that GOP congressional candidates can build their campaigns around the administration's success in prosecuting the war." Not necessarily, Brownstein argues. ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-000006188jan24.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection
"In the first election after the beginning of each of the five major U.S. wars in the last century, the president's party has lost seats in Congress. That's been true whether the war at the time was going well (as in World War I) or badly (as in World War II, Korea and Vietnam) or just gearing up (as in the Persian Gulf). This year might be different, some analysts say, because terrorism represents a more direct threat to voters on the home front than any of those earlier conflicts. But the precedent is that, in congressional elections at least, traditional domestic concerns have tended to overshadow war.
"Yet even if Democrats can limit the war's influence in the midterm election, some key party strategists fear that Rove's argument could prove powerful two years from now, in the 2004 presidential race.
"Several recent polls have found Bush opening huge leads over Democrats on issues demanding toughness, such as safeguarding national security and combating terrorism. And that could signal a reversion to the partisan alignment that existed during the quarter century before Bill Clinton, when Democrats led on the issues of social compassion often critical in congressional races but were found wanting in the tests of strength that loom larger in presidential contests."
Bill Safire wrote two laudatory columns early in George W. Bush's run for the presidency that helped the Texas governor establish some foreign policy bona fides with the chattering class. In his New York Times effort today, Safire says the president's strong foreign policy record is silencing critics and opening doors all over the world. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/opinion/24SAFI.html )
The War Over Here
All's quiet on the al Qaeda communication front, which is making some U.S. intelligence officials nervous and "causing some analysts to believe [Osama bin Laden] may be executing a ruse to convince Washington he is dead." No evidence has surfaced to suggest that he's truly been, uh, eliminated. ( http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020124-11575390.htm )
Several papers report on growing reason for concern that Iran is trying to undermine the new Afghan government. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28058-2002Jan23.html ) and ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-000006154jan24.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dfrontpage )
Despite all the rhetoric and back-and-forth about whether or not to target Iraq, White House policy toward the country remains pretty much as it was during the administration of 42. "After a year of top-level internal review, the administration has yet to lift a Clinton prohibition against lethal aid for Iraqi opposition groups. The opposition, principally the London-based Iraqi National Congress (INC), continues to be barred as a matter of policy from using U.S. funds to carry out activities inside Iraq. A State Department slot designated to coordinate with the Iraqi opposition has been vacant since last summer." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28324-2002Jan23.html )
Be they Republicans or Democrats, the relationship between White Houses on the one hand, and governors and mayors on the other, is as immutable and tension-riddled as, say, mother-daughter or tenant-landlord. Washington always wants to send less money with more strings attached, and state and city officials always want more money with fewer strings. In the latest incarnation of the Story as Old as Time Itself, the mayors in Washington already are grousing about the terms of the administration's homeland security spending plans. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/24/national/24RIDG.html )
The Army secretary announced Wednesday that if all goes according to schedule, National Guard troops should be pulled out of U.S. airports within the next 60 to 90 days. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27891-2002Jan23.html )
"Citing a 'potential serious health risk,' the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog launched an investigation Wednesday into whether the EPA erred in allowing the Hart Senate Office Building to reopen. The focus of the inquiry is not the anthrax that contaminated the building last fall but the chlorine dioxide, the chemical used to kill the anthrax, said Robert J. Martin, the EPA's independent ombudsman." ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-000006170jan24.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection )