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Jewish World Review June 27, 2001/ 6 Tamuz 5761

Wesley Pruden

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Here comes the GOP,
down from the hill -- REPUBLICANS have stronger leg muscles than Olympic sprinters. And why not? They get lots of exercise, marching up the hill and then marching down again.

You can see sinews bulging in the thighs and calves of all the troops in the new Bush administration, as they march resolutely up the hill with bagpipes piping, drummers drumming and banners flying in pursuit of something really, really important only to march down again, still in ragged formation but dog-tired, dewy-eyed and droopy-drawered.

George W. cried himself hoarse during the late, lamented presidential campaign, huffing about how tough he could be with the Russians, blustering about how he wouldn't take any guff from the Chinese and puffing about how he would teach the pesky North Koreans a lesson they wouldn't soon forget.

Not just the folks at the White House, either. Trent Lott's troops are exhausted, too, from all that marching up and down the hill.

No sooner had Jim Jeffords slipped under the sheets with Tom Daschle and the Democrats than Trent Lott blew his bugle to rally the troops with a manifesto that the Republican senators couldn't be intimidated. They set out demands, demands that sounded non-negotiable, about how they expected to be treated by the new Democratic leaders, threatening a filibuster to prevent the reorganization of the Senate unless the Democrats agreed to move the president's judicial nominations along at a reasonably speedy pace. "If we don't get that assurance, or some assurance in this vein," vowed Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, "we're going to have a hard time organizing."

This was the stuff of Omaha Beach and the sands of Iwo Jima, a blood-tingling battle cry the likes of which had not been heard since Bill MacAuliffe rallied "the battlin' bastards of Bastogne" with his famous reply of "nuts" to the German demand for surrender at the Battle of the Bulge.

A spokesman for Trent Lott echoed the battle cry with a whereas and a therefore: "It is a unique situation, and therefore a number of senators feel a host of issues must be addressed before they would support an organizing resolution."

The Democrats answered with laughter, some ribald and some, like that from Patrick Leahy of Vermont, just bald, and who could blame them? They've been on the receiving end of a barrage of Republican sofa pillows before. A few more harrummmmphs and Mr. Lott allowed as how being the majority leader wasn't all it was cracked up to be, anyway, and he was looking forward to more fun as a plain old senator. The Republican senators furled their banners and marched meekly down the hill.

George W. went off to Europe to meet the bureaucrats from Brussels and then Vladimir Putin, the new president of Russia, and if he had any of the harsh words of reproof left over from last autumn nobody could hear them. Mr. Putin, who is trying to revive some of the repression he first learned as an old KGB hand, turned out to be a nice guy after all. They greeted each with such warmth that George W. might have been showing Vlad the Skull and Bones handshake.

The president sent Colin Powell, whom he had earlier rebuked for saying that the United States would continue the Clinton initiative with North Korea, back to tell the North Koreans that the United States would continue the Clinton initiative. The White House, which earlier had expressed low if not necessarily high dudgeon over the prospect of China landing the '08 Olympics over the bids of France and Canada, now wants to remain neutral in the face of China's continuing brutal treatment of its dissidents. (They're only torturing Chinese.)

The White House is busy elsewhere, sampling the hot new flavor in ethnic politics. George W. is courting his friends try to avoid the word "pandering" Hispanics by kicking the Navy off its Puerto Rican bombing range. The Navy has been told to practice bombing Texas instead.

Such pandering risks offending Hispanics, but Republicans defend it as their answer to the Democratic pander to blacks. Both parties, in this sordid line of reasoning, are entitled to a mindless ethnic bloc, thus avoiding treating either blacks or Hispanics as grown-ups.

It's enough to turn even wives and groupies off politicians. The Grand Old Party may have good reasons for pooping, and pursuing policies and instincts at odds with the earnest rhetoric of only yesterday. Politics is of course the art of compromise, as every graduate student knows. Sometimes surrender can be a tactic. But these Republicans regard surrender as strategy. It's very sad, and dumb.

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

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