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Jewish World Review /Feb. 8, 1999 / 22 Shevat, 5759

Tony Snow

Tony Snow Run, GOPers, run?

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) THE ODDEST PIECE of conventional wisdom in Washington is that Democrats will use the Clinton impeachment against Republicans next year.

This assertion overlooks the key question: What idiot would dare raise it?

There isn't a politician in Washington who wants to hitch his or her future to the Clinton express. This presidency has become a stain for both parties. Republicans have suffered dearly for their epic political ineptness.

Democrats have become fearful that history will remember them as The Party That Looked the Other Way.

Polls capture these dual realities. A Feb. 3 Democratic Party flyer crows: "Support for the Republican Party continues to wane as Republicans drag out the Senate impeachment trial. A recent New York Times/CBS poll found that 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the Republican Senate is handling the trial, while two-thirds of Americans feel House and Senate Republicans have hurt their party's image. ..." The blast also quotes a "GOP poll respondent" as saying, "The Republicans have definitely cooked their goose on this one."

Indeed, Senate Republicans are running from the scandal like Tokyo pedestrians from Godzilla. A high-ranking GOP official recently confided to me: "We've got to get out of this mess. I want it over --- now!"

Nevertheless, surveys carry disturbing news for the Party of Clinton. The Polling Company says a whopping 86 percent of the public believes the president lied under oath. (The firm's president, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, notes "that's about the same percentage that believes in God. You don't get 86 percent to agree on anything!") Other surveys show that upward of 60 percent of our compatriots believe he obstructed justice.

While Clinton rides high, Democratic ratings have tumbled 9 points or more in recent weeks. A canvass by John Zogby shows Republicans slightly ahead in party affiliation. More revealing, Al Gore trails George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole in early (and notoriously unreliable) polls.

This summarizes the Democratic quandary: While the president's popularity isn't transferable even to his closest associate, his problems cling like bad memories -- and he doesn't have the kind of magnetism to pull his pals out of the muck. When feminists recently tried to organize an anti-impeachment rally, they had to cancel for lack of interest. Attempts to recall Republicans who voted to impeach have gone nowhere.

Democratic operatives and officeholders grouse behind the scenes about the man. Consultants curse him openly. All have entered a state of denial about what this scandal has done to the legacy of FDR, JFK, MLK and LBJ.

Throughout the impeachment and trial, they have refused to challenge or analyze the facts, choosing instead to carp about partisanship.

That gets to the heart of things. The trial long ago stopped being about Bill Clinton and turned into a test of party loyalty. (Democrats won big.) One wag likens the battle to the Alger Hiss case, in which Hiss' defenders ignored the facts for decades in order to deprive their ideological enemies of a psychological victory.

Once the hearings have drawn to a close, however, Democrats will want to do two things: 1) Bash Republicans in hopes of reclaiming Congress, and 2) forget about Bill Clinton.

GOP consultant Rich Galen says L'Affaire Lewinsky won't figure at all in the 2000 balloting: "Assume that the polls are right. One of the things we know is that everybody is sick and tired of this thing. ... So imagine I'm a candidate for Congress next year.

"Well, here's a great strategy: I'm going to remind people of something they all hated 22 months ago, and in their gratitude they'll elect me to Congress."

Another manager for a Republican presidential aspirant says, "Politically, this issue is a lot like abortion. Whoever goes on offense risks alienating a big chunk of voters. You might motivate true believers, but you'll make everybody else mad."

Think practically. Who would spend money hiring consultants to draft pro-Clinton ads, pay a company to produce them and spend tens of thousands of dollars putting such things on the air? Ed Gillespie, a consultant for GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich, says more important things will hang in the balance. He describes the next plebiscite as "a seminal election. It won't only be about the White House, but about the direction of the country in the new millennium."

Fitzpatrick boldly predicts that what is good today for Democrats quickly could turn sour. "The greatest political fallout will be on Al Gore's shoulders. .... Americans are result-oriented, not process-oriented. The trial is a process, but the end result is that 72 percent believes Clinton will be remembered most for impeachment and financial scandals."

No wonder the president promises not to gloat.


02/0499: The languid sigh of waves lapping ashore
02/01/99: Verbal vortex
01/28/99: To be a ‘sell-out’ or an unelectable pol --- that is the question
01/25/99: The apogee of a trend
01/21/99:What my 3-year-old taught me
01/17/99:Don't be fooled, folks
01/14/99: Must a pol be ‘baaaad’ in order to get elected?
01/12/99: Jumpin’ Jack (Kemp)
01/08/99 : Hot air in the Windy City

©1999, Creators Syndicate