Is it all downhill from here for the GOP? The Times likes to think so, judging by Monday's story from Adam Nagourney and Richard Stevenson, "Some See Risks for G.O.P. as it Revels in New Powers."
It begins: "President Bush begins his second term with the Republican Party in its strongest position in over 50 years, but his clout is already being tested by Republican doubts about his domestic agenda, rising national unease about Iraq and the threat of second-term overreaching, officials in both parties say."
Nagourney and Stevenson find Republicans warning of "hubris": "But some Republicans said they were worried about overconfidence, including Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who invoked his experience serving alongside Speaker Newt Gingrich when Republicans captured the House in 1994. 'Hubris is deadly,' Mr. Sanford said. And Gary Bauer, a conservative who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, said that while he applauded Mr. Bush's ambition in pursuing two major domestic goals - overhauling Social Security and the tax code - those issues, if handled incorrectly, could undercut Mr. Bush's long-term goal for the party. 'They could provide the president's opponents with fodder for some of the old canards, that Republicans don't want a social safety net, that they're the party of the rich, all those things,' Mr. Bauer said. 'It's going to take a very astute effort and massive amounts of presidential involvement to keep that from happening.'"
The Times once again employs Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel , a well-known Bush critic, to advance its preferred angle on Bush's second-term prospects: "Mr. Bush got a reminder on the Sunday talk shows of the difficulties he faces, as Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who is talking about running for president, said on 'This Week With George Stephanopoulos' on ABC that he did not believe the White House had a strategy to extricate the United States from Iraq. On 'Meet the Press' on NBC, Representative Bill Thomas of California, the head of the Ways and Means Committee, laid out his own ideas for how to change the retirement system, which were to a large degree different from what the White House has suggested.The critical question for Mr. Bush, his advisers and Democrats say, is the success or failure of his agenda, both in terms of getting it through Congress and winning support for it from the public. Recent polls show apprehension about important aspects of his Social Security plan, and an overwhelming sentiment that Mr. Bush does not know how to end the war in Iraq, which is increasingly unpopular."
For the rest from Nagourney and Stevenson, click here :
Keeping the "Looted" Museum Legend Alive
A brief item in the Sunday Arts & Leisure section, "The Safety of Iraqi Objects," by Fred Bernstein, claims of the refurbished Iraq Museum in Baghdad: "This was, after all, the museum from which an estimated 14,000 objects were looted following the American invasion of Iraq."
This discredited story was originally pushed by the Times in the aftermath of America's victory in April 2003 (except then the figure back then was a staggering 170,000 artifacts).
But even Sunday's 14,000 number is likely a gross exaggeration. A revisionist report in the left-wing British paper The Guardianfrom June 2003 suggests the number is closer to 2,000 (and even that substantially overstates the actual impact): "A different picture is emerging of the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad. Only a few dozen significant pieces, not thousands as originally reported, were stolen. And many, a new investigation has found, may have gone missing long before the Americans arrived in the Iraqi capital. US officials revealed yesterday that several of the most important pieces that were thought to have been stolen have now turned up safe.Staff there now say that only 33 major items and around 2,000 minor works have gone."
For the rest of the brief item on the Iraq Museum, click here :
"Divisive" Ashcroft and Curtain-Gate
Reporter Eric Lichtblau gives Attorney General John Ashcroft a mostly respectful sendoff that nonetheless works in some liberal criticism: "Mr. Ashcroft became a divisive figure even within the Justice Department, with many career lawyers saying they felt frozen out of the decision-making process on issues like terrorism and civil rights. But such complaints were either mocked or rejected out of hand by Mr. Ashcroft's admirers on Monday. During an hourlong tribute, the attorney general was honored for his accomplishments and presented with an ornate clock, a bronze sculpture, a leather chair from the White House in which he had sat during West Wing briefings and other gifts."
Then its on to the burning issue of the decade - Blue-Curtain-gate: "It was perhaps only fitting that Mr. Ashcroft's goodbye tribute took place in front of the infamous blue curtains at the Great Hall. The curtains provided endless material for late-night comedians after his aides had them installed in 2001 to cover a pair of statues that are partly nude."
Now that the Times won't have the socially conservative, devout Ashcroft to kick around anymore, it could have at least provided the rationale behind the Justice Department's move to install the curtains: News photographers got a kick out of photographing socially conservative attorney generals in front of the nude Spirit of Justice statue.
As the Associated Press reported: "In the past, snagging a photo of the attorney general in front of the statues has been something of a sport for photographers. When former Attorney General Edwin Meese released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him."
For the rest of Lichtblau from the Ashcroft tribute, click here :
Abortion Bias on the March
While last year's annual march on Washington by abortion advocates earned a 1,400 word front-page story in the April 25, 2004 edition of the Times, this year's pro-life March for Life, held on Monday, warranted a mere 350-word story from David Kirkpatrick , "Bush Praises Anti-Abortion Rally," relegated to the bottom right corner of page A17.
Yet the Times found room on Tuesday's front page for a speech to an abortion-rights group  in Albany by Sen. Hillary Clinton.