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The Washington Post as Iago

Thursday, March 16, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Jim VandeHei’s front page Washington Post story on the alleged resentment of Congressional Republicans directed at President Bush and the entire White House staff is a masterpiece of the Gollum genre. If you have seen the LOTR movie or read the book, you’ll recall how Gollum worked overtime to divide Sam from Frodo, and actually succeeded for a time.

MSM will gladly serve as Gollum, or better yet Iago, just for the sheer joy of bleeding Bush but for ideological reasons as well. Quoting nutter Dems blasting away at Bush has been of zero use over the past three campaigns, so between now and November expect to seee a lot of this sort of nonsense which purports to reveal a growing GOP rift between Republican White House and GOP Congress.

Let’s look at the GOP “complaints” that VandeHei records, one by one:

The White House at times has been “non-responsive and arrogant,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “There are a thousand small cuts,” he added, that are ignored when things are going well but “rear their heads when things are not going well.”

Comment: What can anyone say about Lindsey Graham, except that he is certain to say whatever will attract attention. He is the GOP’s Chuck Schumer. The WaPo needs an anti-Bush quote, well, start with the senior senator from South Carolina.

“Members felt they were willing to take a lot of tough votes and did not get much in return,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), an early critic of the port deal.

Now this is interesting. Does Representative King mean to suggest he votes the way he does on, say, the war, because he expects pork in return?

And for whom does Peter King speak, really?

There are 231 Republicans in the House; 55 in the Senate. Keep an eye on those members VandeHei is quoting:

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) recently contacted White House officials and implored them to bring aboard a former lawmaker as a new chief diplomat to Congress. Lott floated several names, including former senators Daniel R. Coats (R-Ind.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). It “would be a good idea” to have someone with real stature working Congress on Bush’s behalf, Lott said. Former Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) told CBS on Wednesday that he did the same in a phone call to Bush Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., offering the name of former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.).

Senator Lott is said to be making a comeback within Senate circles, and to be seen as advising the White House on such matters might be helpful in that long climb, but Lott’s anger at Bush over the senator’s fall in December, 2002 doesn’t make him the most credible of sources on this particular issue. Howard Baker is 81 years old and left the Senate two decades ago!

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who won his seat in 2002 after a late push by Bush, told the Associated Press this week that the president should shake up the staff more broadly, accusing the White House of having a political “tin ear.” The Coleman call was seen by some top White House aides a wake-up call because he has been such a loyal Bush backer.

Here’s the whole AP quote:

On Tuesday, Coleman, R-Minn, told the Associated Press that the White House had been afflicted by a political “tin ear” and compared the staff to tired hockey players who need a rest.

“I have some concerns about the team that’s around the president,” said Coleman, who has close ties to Bush. “I think you need to take a look at it.”

VandeHei attempts to suggest that not only Coleman but also South Dakota’s John Thune is in revolt against the president:

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is a prime example of such perceived slights. He was handpicked by the White House to challenge then-Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in 2004. Thune entered the race under heavy White House pressure and won in part by promising to protect South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base from being closed.

But when the Pentagon targeted Ellsworth for closing, Thune’s complaints to White House senior officials were coldly dismissed, according to people familiar with the conversations. “Why are you whining?” was how one person familiar with the session paraphrased the White House response.

Thune declined to want to comment on the base closing but said, “I think Republicans want to be helpful, but the administration needs to help us to help them.”

This is “irritation?” Thune’s “declined” looks a lot more like support to me, as Thune was refusing to reopen the base issue –which Thune won, btw, and which enhanced Thune’s standing in South Dakota.

The article quotes Congressman Tom Davis on the ports deal:

It was the breaking point for many members. Afterward, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “This is probably the worst administration ever in getting Congress’s opinion on anything.”

That is strong criticism, the first real criticism in the piece. One member, one issue, one quote. To which many might reply: So what? There’s a war. Bush wasn’t elected to consult with Thomas M. Davis III, but to represent the nation’s decision to win that war.

But my guess is that Congressman Davis is not fully quoted here, as Bush is delivering majorities, and Davis is a very successful GOP strategist who fully appreciates the president’s commitment to party.

The piece concludes with a quote from one GOP Congressman dissatisifed with the drug benefit bill, and one congressman upset over No Child Left Behind:

House Republicans in particular were already panicking about the Medicare prescription drug benefit they had passed more than a year earlier. The program was seen as too costly for conservatives and too confusing for seniors. Yet a majority of Republicans voted for it under intense lobbying from Bush and GOP congressional leaders, and several regretted it.

“Bottom line, there is a lot of buyer’s remorse,” said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). If the vote were held today on the Medicare prescription drug benefit, he said, as many 120 Republicans would vote against it. “It was probably our greatest failure in my adult lifetime,” he said.

So when Bush sprang the Social Security plan on them, many Republicans balked. Eventually, congressional Republicans revolted and killed what Bush had trumpeted as the top domestic priority of his second term. Another common complaint about the White House is that it asked lawmakers to take politically risky votes and did not bother to provide cover when Democrats started attacking.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a Bush ally who dismissed concerns about an inattentive White House, said he regrets voting for the No Child Left Behind bill in the first term.

This article telegraphs the MSM strategy for the next eight months: Use random quotes from long interviews with Republicans to suggest a GOP upset with the president.

As noted above, there are 286 Republicans in Congress. This article quotes a grand total of eight of those electeds, and my guess is that at least half of those have been selectively quoted.

There is no “revolt” among the electeds, and if there was, there’d be a revolt against them, not the president.

In fact, the base is tremendously supportive of the president, and any GOP electeds who persuade themselves otherwise are, to put it mildly, dopes.

Poll all you want. Selectively quote all you want. Try and find a GOP elected who will blast the president on camera.

There aren’t any. And for very good reason.

The GOP’s base, and the independents who are serious about the war, are with Bush, with Cheney, with Rumsfeld.

Between now and November, though, it will be very important for GOP electeds to keep in mind that the MSM is on a mission to present a portrait of a fractured GOP and an isolated president. Those who play into that game should expect the party to keep score.

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