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Dick, That, and the Other Thing

By Russ Smith | Posted 4/11/2007

Not so long ago, before the internet and cable television threatened the powerful and complacent mainstream media, the month of August was routinely dubbed the "silly season" for news, since it was the most common time for government officials and the reporters who tracked them to take vacation time. As most people with an interest in current events that extends beyond randy middle-school teachers and celebrity scandals know, the "silly season" now extends throughout the year.

I respect The New York Sun, an influential if small-circulation broadsheet that's generally conservative and is an important antidote to The New York Times, but there's no explanation other than "silly" to explain the paper's April 4 editorial headlined "Cheney's Chance." Although the writer took pains not to explicitly endorse Dick Cheney for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, the gist of the editorial certainly gave that impression. In another era, even Bush administration partisans would wonder, "What are they smoking at the Sun?", since the notion that the disliked VP would be an immediate "first tier" competitor against Rudy Giuliani and John McCain is daft.

The paper cited the "warm" reception Cheney received in Alabama after an April 2 speech as partial evidence that the 66-year-old political veteran, who's plagued by health problems and is even more unpopular than President Bush among the general electorate, would make a strong candidate. Sure, if the GOP was content to carry several Southern states next year and concede the rest of the country to a Democrat like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards. I don't share the visceral hatred of Cheney, but it's time for him to retire. Or establish residency in Alabama and run for a Congressional seat.

The semicoherent bleatings of Don Imus, the syndicated radio talk show host who's favored by Beltway insiders, made news last week when he tossed off a racist comment on-air about Rutgers University's women's basketball team. Why Imus is the show of preference for men and women like Maureen Dowd, Tim Russert, John McCain, Frank Rich, Joe Lieberman, and Hardball's Chris Matthews is beyond me, but the man who once referred to former Baltimore Sun reporter Gwen Ifill as a "cleaning lady" is apparently too high in the elite's pecking order to get canned. For the record, Imus said on April 4: "That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos. . . . That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that."

By the end of the week, apologies were flying faster than subpoenas aimed at Bush officials over the also silly "scandal" of the eight terminated U.S. Attorneys (as if there's no precedence for politically motivated dismissals on the Democratic side, from Truman to Clinton). But Imus'll weather this latest burst of immoderate language because of his ratings, buddies, and political leanings, and although the National Association of Black Journalists demanded his scalp, it likely won't be forthcoming.

John Edwards recently contributed to the public dialogue's silliness by refusing to participate in a presidential debate sponsored by Fox News, citing the network's conservative slant. Fox is to the right politically, just as CNN is to the left, but this kind of grandstanding is off-putting. Millions of people watch Fox, and because the forum will consist of just Democrats, negating favoritism, it's clear Edwards is playing to the party's activist base. Yet even more frivolous is the former senator's proposal, should he be elected, that the Internal Revenue Service calculate the income returns of some 50 million Americans each year. This will save taxpayers--the ones with the simplest returns--an estimated 225 million hours annually, according to the Edwards campaign.

It's true that not everyone has a complicated financial portfolio, but does anyone really want the government to determine deductions, payments, and refunds? Seems like a conflict of interest to me.

I haven't the space to fully address Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's ad hoc trip to Syria to engage in diplomatic talks with that country's thuggish dictator Bashar al-Assad, but she rightfully took it on the chin for the visit. Pelosi erroneously told Assad that she carried a message from Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert that his country was ready to talk peace with Syria. The Washington Post, hardly an adjunct of Fox News, blasted Pelosi in an April 5 editorial, concluding, "Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish."

Pelosi claimed that her mission was merely an affirmation of the vaguely anti-Semitic Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which recommended massive rounds of diplomacy between the United States and hostile Middle East regimes. Maybe her next overseas trip will be to Tehran, in hopes that the next Iranian capture of Westerners won't number as high as the 15 Britons who were held, interrogated, and then grandly released.

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