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Dean gives cover to Dems
By Paul M. Weyrich
Chris Matthews is host of MSNBC's "Hardball". He used to be Chief of Staff to Speaker Tip O'Neill. No conservative, he. But Matthews gave a very honest answer when, on the "Today Show", substitute host Campbell Brown asked him if there was any merit to the charges by some Democrats that politics were behind elevating the threat level from yellow to orange in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Newark, N.J. Matthews said absolutely not.
Matthews went on to explain that George Bush is carrying out his Presidential responsibilities in fighting the war on terror. He further said that we can have only one President and John Kerry isn't President. He said if President Bush didn't make the information on the increased terrorist threat known to the American people and something happened, he could be impeached.
Of course, Democrat Matthews' defense of President hardly ends the controversy. As former Iowa Republican Congressman Fred Grandy, formerly of "Love Boat" fame and now co-host of WMAL radio's "Morning News" in D.C., has pointed out, there is a dirty little secret in politics. People like former Governor Howard Dean, who are on the political fringe, serve the purposes of the Democratic nominee by making harsh charges. The nominee himself can repudiate the charges, thus appearing more moderate. At the same time, the charges are out there for the news media to pursue.
That is exactly why we have endless stories and interviews about whether or not President Bush is playing politics with the War on Terror. Dean suggested that there was politics behind the President's decision. The media then reported that John Kerry would not associate himself with Dean's remarks. As Grandy said, that made Kerry appear more moderate. Moreover, because the suggestion by Dean was made, the news media had their hook to raise the issue over and over again.
This technique is not new. Furthermore, it is not confined to one side of the political spectrum. In fact, Richard Nixon used to employ that technique frequently. When I worked for the late Senator Gordon Allott, (R-CO), the Nixon White House asked Allott to denounce the recommendations of the Pornography Commission appointed by Lyndon Johnson. Allott savaged the Commission and that allowed Nixon to step back from the recommendations and let Allott take the heat. Nixon frequently used his first-term Vice President Spiro T. Agnew to raise issues from which Nixon could then distance himself. In 1969, Agnew went to Des Moines, Iowa and unleashed an extraordinary attack on the media elites. Of course, the media went crazy over the attack. Nixon made it clear that these were Agnew's views and not his. The problem for Nixon was the media would not buy that, insisting that Nixon had put Agnew up to the attack. Even though, no doubt, the Kerry campaign asked Dean to make the statement that he made, the media allowed Kerry to distance himself from it. If there were any fairness to the way they operate, they would do to Kerry what they did to Nixon in the Agnew media caper.
I digress. George Bush can't seem to win no matter what he does. A series of terrorists have been caught...some right here in America. These are terrorists who planned to do harm in this country. Some of the information came from a computer found by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Other information came from the arrests of terrorists in Pakistan. Kerry and his Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards constantly charge that we have alienated our allies.
Supposedly we have no friends in the world who "count". Yet during the Clinton Administration, Pakistan was no friend of the USA. Indeed, when Pakistan threatened India by testing some of its missile systems, and President Clinton intervened, Pakistan all but thumbed its nose at Clinton.
Today, despite a somewhat hostile Parliament, Pakistan is proving to be a remarkable ally in the War on Terror. They have been arresting key terrorists and in some cases even handing them over to the USA. Does Bush get any credit for this? Is there any gratitude for the fact that terrorists operating in this country are being pursued -- even when one of them is the Imam of a Mosque?
Bush has begun to rebuild our intelligence operations. Even though I have problems with some aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act, the part that broke down the walls between the FBI and the CIA and other intelligence agencies was absolutely necessary and has contributed to the intelligence gains we have made as a nation.
There are times when, given the political climate in the country, President Bush must wonder why anyone would want the job as President. When things go wrong on his watch, of course he gets the blame and that is to be expected. Yet, when things go right, he hardly ever gets the credit. The mainstream media looks for any reason to discredit Bush and his capable Administration.
It is little wonder that half the country now gets much of their news from the Internet, talk radio and the Fox News Channel. At least the President gets a fair shake in these outlets. One can only wonder what the President's numbers would be like if the other half of the nation got information from media which was fair to the President. Maybe we would not be such a closely divided nation after all.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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