Sunday, June 03, 2001

Liberals' hero

Sen. Snake

        Journalists run in a herd, and right now they're running all over the Bush ranch like stampeding cattle.

        When the dust settles, the truth has been trampled half to death. All that's left is broken-down fences and piles of fresh fertilizer, like the column on Page 2 by Richard Cohen.

        The herd mentality goes like this: President Bush is finished because a principled hero, Sen. James Jeffords, switched parties to give control of the Senate to Democrat Tom Daschle, who is less partisan than the right-wing Republicans who drove Mr. Jeffords over the fence.

        “He did this, no doubt, for principle, since he is a moderate and the GOP is now hard right,” Mr. Cohen says.

        Another Washington Post liberal, Mary McGrory, says, “Jeffords has proved that there is still courage and conviction in the Senate.”

        Republicans who know Sen. Jeffords best have a name for that: Hooey.

        “He was elected to a six-year term by supporting every darned thing the Bush administration is now trying to enact,” said Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky.

        Sen. Jeffords' lofty principle was “Me first.”

        He knew that 98-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-Methuselah, could retire or expire any day. And Sen. Jeffords was term-limited as a committee chairman. He had to move fast for maximum attention and spoils.

        “They bought him off with a permanent committee chairmanship,” Sen. Bunning said.

        Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, says Sen. Jeffords extracted big concessions from Republicans before betraying them. “The argument that he wasn't listened to in our party is wrong.”

        Sen. Jeffords is no moderate. He voted to block a ban on partial-birth abortion. He was the first Republican to oppose the impeachment of President Clinton. He is a closet liberal.

        It's also untrue that Republicans are now fenced in.

        “We do have some leverage,” Sen. DeWine said. He means the Senate organizational vote. Democrats need 60 votes to take control of committees. Even with Sen. Brutus, they have only 51.

        “We can filibuster the organizational resolution until we get an agreement on judges,” Sen. Bunning said. “We're not in a bad position.”

        If the resolution is blocked, the Senate reverts to Republican control. So on Tuesday, Sen. Bunning wants to use that stick to demand fair hearings on judicial nominees.

        Otherwise, they will be bottled up by new Majority Leader Daschle — who is no Mr. Rogers. “He's a really hard partisan,” Sen. Bunning said. “If he's as bad a majority leader as he was a minority leader, he will be pretty bad.”

        The media cattle will accuse Republicans of a government shut-down. “We can stall awhile, but the P.R. will get so bad,” Sen. DeWine said.

        But Sen. Bunning points out that Democrats did the same thing to President Bush's tax cuts, with 54 amendments designed to delay and blame Republicans for rejecting welfare and social spending. “They wanted to make a commercial out of those things,” Sen. Bunning said.

        Maybe Republicans should offer clock-killer amendments to stall the Democrats' takeover. Such as:

        • An amendment requiring everyone who opposed tax cuts to stuff their rebate checks in a garbage disposal to simulate federal spending.

        • The California Blackout Amendment — all members of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Earth First who opposed building power plants will conserve energy by disconnecting their power lines.

        • An amendment to let the air out of Sen. Kennedy, beginning with his Macy's Thanksgiving Parade head.

        • The Casey Martin Amendment, stipulating that if disabled pro golfers get to ride a cart, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms get their own ICU units in the Senate.

        • An amendment naming Sen. James Jeffords the national reptile.

        Contact Enquirer Associate Editor Peter Bronson at 768-8301; fax: 768-8610; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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