Tom Daschle's Home-Field Advantage: The NYT - May 25, 2004 -

Times Watch for May 25, 2004

Tom Daschle's Home-Field Advantage: The NYT

Sheryl Gay Stolberg files from the home state of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, locked in a nail-biter against Republican John Thune. From Sioux Falls, S.D., Stolberg ponders the propriety of Republican Senate Leader Bill Frist actually campaigning against Daschle in South Dakota. Even the headline portrays Frist in unflattering terms: "Daschle Has Race on His Hands and Interloper on His Turf."

This is only Stolberg's latest valentine to Daschle. In January she gushed: "With his soft-spoken, almost gentle manner, Mr. Daschle is the rare politician who can go on the attack without seeming snappish; one word often used to describe him is 'decent.'"

Stolberg frets at the start of her Sunday piece: "The bare-knuckle partisanship that divides Capitol Hill came to this sparsely populated state on Saturday, as Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, took the unusual step of campaigning against his Democratic counterpart, Tom Daschle, on Mr. Daschle's home turf."

Later she wonders if Frist is going too far in actually (for shame!) campaigning against Daschle: "Democrats in Washington and also independent scholars say that the majority leader is violating an unwritten Senate code not to campaign against another leader."

Then she lets Daschle respond to a Republican fundraising letter that "irked" him: "Recently, the majority leader sent out a letter on Mr. Thune's behalf, telling donors, 'If you can only make one more contribution to one of our Republican Senate candidates this election cycle, you should make that gift to John Thune!' The letter irked Mr. Daschle. 'The tone of the letter was very caustic and very hyperbolic and unnecessary,' he said in a recent interview in the Capitol. He said it strained relations between the men for a few days but insisted that the visit to South Dakota was not altering their ability to manage the Senate. 'He knows and I know that in this building we have to work together,' Mr. Daschle said."

Speaking of "very caustic and very hyperbolic," check out how the allegedly "mild-mannered" Daschle characterized conservatives back in 2002 (an incident ignored by Stolberg): "What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren"t satisfied just to listen. They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically.... We see it in foreign countries and we think, well my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent? Well, it"s that same shrill rhetoric. It"s that same shrill power that motivates....Pretty soon it"s a foment that becomes physical in addition to just verbal, and that"s happening in this country."

For the rest of Stolberg on Daschle, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Sen. Tom Daschle | Rush Limbaugh | Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Slanted "Lines of Loyalty" on Bush's Iraq Speech

Following Bush's prime-time address on Iraq at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, Tuesday's review by reporter Carl Hulse is titled "Distinct Views of Iraq Speech Follow Lines of Loyalty."

Hulse's story follows the same lines, with responses to the speech slanted heavily toward the Democratic side. Hulse's rundown of opinions from politicians includes two Republicans (Rep. Delay and Sen. McConnell) and three Democrats (Sen. Clinton, Sen. Graham, Sen. Kerry). But his four outside analysts (including Council on Foreign Relations president emeritus Leslie Gelb, former Times editor and foreign affairs correspondent) are all critical of the speech.

In all, pro-Bush sources get a measly three paragraphs in Hulse's rundown, compared to 13 for the anti-Bush side. Could Hulse really not find anyone outside Congress to say something nice about the speech?

For the rest of Hulse on reaction to the speech, click here.

" George W. Bush | Carl Hulse | Iraq War

Does Bush Get Iraq?

In Richard Stevenson's bleak analysis of Bush's Monday night speech on Iraq, he hints Bush still doesn't understand how "violence and chaos" is threatening to engulf the country: "Mr. Bush made only one concrete concession to the grim reality of the past few weeks, setting out a plan to build a new high-security prison and tear down Abu Ghraib, the jail where some Iraqi prisoners were abused by their American captors and where Mr. Hussein's government had earlier tortured and killed untold numbers of its own citizens. Otherwise, Mr. Bush stuck to the basic approach he has settled on over the past several months, betting that his steady-on strategy would ultimately be judged resolute rather than inflexible or unrealistic".If the five-point approach he set out covered all the bases on paper, it still risked appearing detached from the violence and chaos that has threatened to engulf Iraq and extract a heavy political price from Mr. Bush and his fellow Republicans at home."

For the rest of Stevenson on Bush's speech, click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Iraq War | Richard Stevenson

More on Bush the Bubble Boy

A slow news week? The theme of Bush as out-of-touch bubble boy returns on Monday in Elisabeth Bumiller's White House Letter, "The Other Long Occupation: Bush in a Bubble."

Bumiller writes: "All presidents live in a bubble, but Democrats, European officials and a group of moderate Republicans [Editor's Note: Otherwise known as Bush critics] say that Mr. Bush lives in a bigger bubble than most. As the problems of the occupation and insurgency in Iraq have intensified, they say, Mr. Bush has appeared to retreat more than ever into his tight circle of aides".This past weekend, Mr. Bush seemed more inside his bubble than usual. After a commencement speech on Friday in the largely Bush-friendly territory of Louisiana State University, the president ended up at his Texas ranch. He spent part of Saturday afternoon falling off his mountain bike and sustaining minor injuries on a 17-mile ride, and he skipped the graduation of his twin daughter Jenna from the University of Texas, where university officials had predicted protests if Mr. Bush turned up. Later in the day, Mr. Bush went to a private family dinner in Austin, at a restaurant called Moonshine, to celebrate Jenna's graduation. The president repeated the pattern in New Haven on Sunday, when he attended a family dinner celebrating the graduation of the other twin, Barbara, from Yale. But once again, he planned to skip the actual commencement, on Monday. Yale officials, too, had predicted that there would be large protests if the president appeared."

Of course, if Bush had attended the graduations and weathered the inevitable protests, the media would have doubtless run stories about how Bush's presence had distracted from the ceremony.

Bumiller then does a little crystal ball gazing: "The larger question is this: Inside the bubble, what is Mr. Bush's level of concern about the turmoil in Iraq? Does he think that the sunny predictions of Vice President Dick Cheney and the deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, were all wrong? Does he blame them, or himself?" Bumiller concludes by letting moderate Republican Sen. Richard Lugar warn Bush about his handling of Iraq.

For the rest of Bumiller's letter, click here.

" Elisabeth Bumiller | George W. Bush | Iraq War