Jewish World Review April 26, 2005/ 17 Nissan, 5765

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Past time to get down and dirty | These will be "the weeks that were" for the Bush administration.

If the Bolton nomination collapses either on or before May 12, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decides whether to send it to the full Senate where passage is assured, the Democrats will have got George W.'s number.

They think they have his number now. If the nomination goes down, he can count on the Democrats ringing his bell from now on just for the sport of it.

It's not coincidence that the Republicans are tormented on both congressional fronts at once. The hyenas are baying at John Bolton in the Senate and the jackals are circling Tom DeLay in the House, united by the prospect of supping on Republican road kill.

The bill of particulars against both men differs in detail, but the motivations of their tormentors are identical. John Bolton stands accused, and no doubt guilty, of sometimes acting like a senator, demanding perfection from his aides and sometimes (horrors!) yelling at them when they don't perform to expectations. So he's not always very nice, but people who work for senators can't expect senators or even ambassadors to act like kindly archbishops, or even gentle editors who never ever raise their voices.

Tom DeLay stands accused, and no doubt guilty, of doing what congressmen do. Like his colleagues, he sometimes hires his kinfolks and takes the advantages the law allows. This may be more than the law should allow, but Tom didn't invent the system and has not been accused of breaking the law. Nor is he taking his opportunities any more than, for example, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader who's getting the usual pass from the lazybones of the mainstream media, who write not a word about her cozy life under the covers — metaphorically speaking, of course — with assorted lobbyists.

We can all wish our politicians were recruited from a better class of people; when an early visitor to America remarked that all Texas needed was a little more water and a better class of settler, an Arkansas man observed that "yes, and that's all hell needs, too, and Texans must make the best of what they have."

But neither Tom DeLay nor John Bolton is what this cynically manufactured contretemps is all about. The Democrats are masterfully exploiting Republican ignorance of how to behave like a majority party, and a stubborn unwillingness to learn. Yesterday the White House asked John Bolton to sit down with Sen. George Voinovich to reassure him that President Bush actually knew what he was doing when he nominated him to be a tough U.S. ambassador to the corrupt and incompetent United Nations.

The committee was ready to vote last week, with a favorable majority lined up, when Mr. Voinovich complained that since he was AWOL when Mr. Bolton testified before the committee a week earlier, he needed more time to find out what everybody was talking about. George Voinovich is often out of the loop and, senators being what they are, the committee passed. The Voinovich maneuver was actually about giving cover to Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, who itch to throw a dirty tennis shoe in the president's punch bowl but don't have the manly orbs to do it. The squeamish among us must not think about how Lyndon Johnson would have resolved this; suffice it to say the senator would have left the Oval Office singing only the soprano's arias, with the understanding that if Ohio gets a new post office this decade, Ohioans would have only Mike DeWine, the other Ohio senator, to thank for it.

President Bush, remembering his Republican manners, said only that the Democrats are "playing politics." Well, duh. "Politics" is what we do in Washington. What the Democrats are doing is using the Bolton nomination to assert their determination to run things, no matter who thinks they're in control.

Condoleezza Rice, who can be the dishy schoolmarm when she has to be, told the Democrats yesterday that "we understand the deliberative processes of the Senate, and we've tried to be as responsive as possible to all the questions that have been asked." Translation from a lady: "We recognize that stinky stuff on the bottom of your shoes, and it's time to get real."

The good news is that the president himself may be beginning to assert himself at a late hour in the DeLay controversy. Tom will be in Houston tomorrow, and the president invited him to ride home with him aboard Air Force One. The pols understand imagery. The president knows how crucial the next fortnight will be.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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