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Jewish World Review June 11, 2002 / 1 Tamuz, 5762

Tony Snow

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Musings | There's a cottage industry in Washington that focuses on finding the rhetorical equivalent of the G-Spot -- a magic word or phrase that can unleash the pent up passions and desires of frustrated voters and turn fence-sitters into true believers.

Republicans tried it when they repackaged privatized social security as "personalized investment." Now the Democracy Corps -- Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Bob Shrum -- suggests a new selling point for Democrats: Accountability.

This term, they suggest will "create a thematic tide." They say that polls and focus groups tell them that -- "our themes, attacks and messages dominate the Republicans." Bill Clinton's former advisers say the public's fed up with people who won't take responsibility for their misdeeds.

They say Democrats can nail George W. Bush with the recklessness charge on everything from tax cuts to social security. So the next time you hear a politician braying about accountability, don't assume it means he or she is coming clean. More likely, the politico is getting ready to pounce.

A news story claimed the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon had won an internal battle over whether to crank up military action against Saddam Hussein -- they had persuaded overseers not to take action against the Iraqi despot.

Well here's the real scoop: The opponents of action are losing the internal debate, which is why they've taken to enlisting aid from newspapers.

My sources say none of the top brass have allowed themselves to get sucked into the fray. In fact, the chairman and vice chairman of the joint chiefs meet regularly with the top civilian leaders of the Pentagon, in conditions described as highly collaborative.

Sure, there's debate about how to proceed in Iraq -- that's why planners haven't yet sent action options or recommendations to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But the bottom line: The story is a red herring. Arguments rage in the Pentagon. Surprise, surprise. But here's the key: When the president makes a decision as commander in chief, the yelling stops - and the action begins.

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