Washington Awash with Conservative Hubris

"Washington Awash with Conservative Hubris"

New Jersey bureau chief David Kocieniewski takes over today's Public Lives profile and lauds moderate Republican Christie Whitman, former New Jersey governor and the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush, in "Loyal to Her Party, but Not in Lock Step."

Whitman has just written a book hostile to conservative Republicans, so it's hardly surprising the Times would make it a cause celebre. But even longtime readers might be taken aback at how bluntly Kocieniewski uses Whitman as an anti-conservative cudgel: "The flashpoint for her latest clash with conservatives is Mrs. Whitman's new book, 'It's My Party, Too,' which warns Republicans that their lurch to the right, while successful in the short-term, runs the risk of marginalizing the party over the long haul. She brands the most fire-breathing right-wing activists as 'extremists' and 'social fundamentalists' and needles Mr. Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, by pointing out that the president's three-point margin of victory last November was the narrowest of any incumbent ever re-elected. The Bush family omert demands silence and loyalty from all the president's retinue, so Mrs. Whitman's decision to speak out is in itself an outrage."

He even criticizes Whitman for bending over backwards to protest Bush's reputation, and uses the term "extremist" without quote marks to summarize Whitman's take on allegedly anti-environmentalist Republicans: "The bitterness of the reaction is all the more surprising because Mrs. Whitman's book, like her public record, performs some astounding contortions to avoid criticizing the president himself. Mr. Bush's decision to break his campaign promise to curb carbon emissions from power plants? A reasonable choice, Mrs. Whitman argues, marred by poor public relations. She asserts, without irony, that Mr. Bush is a closet environmentalist, forced to hide his inner tree hugger for fear of riling Republican extremists."

Kocieniewski sums up Whitman's worldview: "She views her book as a call to arms, urging Republicans who share her support for abortion rights, stem-cell research, and gay rights to become 'radical moderates' who match the zeal and organization of the right wing."

He concludes: "What Mrs. Whitman will find out in the coming months is this: With Republicans ascendant, and Washington awash with conservative hubris, is anyone in power willing to listen?"

For the rest of Kocieniewski's attack on "conservative hubris" and the party's "lurch to the right," click here:

Respect for the Dead, Then and Now

White House reporter Richard Stevenson's Wednesday White House Memo, "Bush Finds a Backer in Moynihan, Who's Not Talking."

The very existence of Stevenson's story is an implicit criticism of the Bush administration for citing the late iconoclastic liberal Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in support of Bush's plans for Social Security reform: "As he pushes ahead with his proposal to remake Social Security by adding private investment accounts, President Bush has so far failed to attract any prominent Democratic supporters. At least, no prominent Democrats who are still alive. Instead, Mr. Bush is taking cover under the reputation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat who died nearly two years ago. Mr. Moynihan served as co-chairman of the commission Mr. Bush established in 2001 to recommend ways of establishing personal accounts, a fact the president and his aides mention almost every time they discuss the issue publicly." Stevenson quotes Moynihan's daughter Maura at length being critical of Bush.

Strangely, such concern for political propriety didn't stop the Times editorial page from adopting the late President Ronald Reagan for embryonic stem-cell research and guncontrol in the days after his death.

For Stevenson's full overview of Bush's use of Moynihan, click here:

Iraqis "Reluctant to Vote"? Says Who?

Reporting from Dubai for Wednesday's edition, Hassan Fattah files a story headlined "Iraqis Abroad Seem Reluctant To Vote, Too, Sign-Up Shows."

Notice that loaded word "too" As if Iraqis in Iraq are showing themselves reluctant to vote as well as those living in other countries. Yet a recent survey of Iraqis in 16 of the country's 18 provinces by the National Endowment for Democracy found "over 80 percent stating that they are very likely or somewhat likely to vote on Jan. 30."

Fattah's actual story notes: "After a two-day extension, registration of Iraqi voters living abroad drew to a close Tuesday but fell well below expectations, with about a quarter of the number predicted by organizers signing up for Sunday's election. By Tuesday morning, some 255,000 Iraqis living overseas had registered in 14 nations. Organizers had expected that roughly one million voters would sign up. The low turnout added to the troubles of a process that was burdened throughout by security concerns, confusion and some controversy."

For the rest of the story from Fattah, click here:

Darn that Deregulation

Micheline Maynard leads off the Sunday business section with "Coffee, Tea or Regulation?" The top of the story is loaded with anti-deregulation sources who apparently want to return the airline industry to the glory days of the '70s: "But others, including representatives of labor unions and some consumer groups, long for the stability of the time, before 1978, when the government decided fares and determined where airlines would fly. Labor unions in particular are looking for an alternative to the current situation, having been hit this decade by five airline bankruptcies, the elimination of more than 120,000 jobs and cuts of as much as 50 percent in pay and benefits. These groups say it is time to consider reregulating airlines, or at least to start a debate about how to stabilize an industry that may be so vital to the nation's fabric that government intervention is warranted."

Maynard sounds almost wistful: "As yet, there is not one single measure behind which these proponents have rallied. And because the Democratic Party, a traditional ally of organized labor, is out of power, Congress could easily turn a deaf ear. But that is not stopping union leaders and others from floating ideas, like asking the government to require airlines to charge a flat fee per seat mile, or changing the pension system to protect workers' benefits that are being eroded by the industry's deepening problems. Some people have even suggested forbidding companies to start new airlines. The idea is that such a move would cap competitive pressures now and could make life easier for those who survive if some airlines fail in the future."

Without evidence, Maynard suggests deregulation is to blame for the current crisis in the industry: "Airline executives say they never anticipated that deregulation would precipitate a crisis as deep or as long as the present one, in which the industry has lost $30 billion over the last five years, compounded by high jet fuel prices that have removed the airlines' breathing space."

At least the bottom half of the story offers balance: "But even as the pain hobbles unions and irritates consumers, the benefits of deregulation outweigh its drawbacks, its proponents say. 'All that regulation would do is put back the problems it originally caused,' said Clifford Winston, a senior economist at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning research organization. Since federal restrictions on routes and fares were removed, consumers have been saving $20 billion a year on air fares, when adjusted for inflation, according to Brookings. Fares have dropped by more than 30 percent, on average, and as much as 70 percent when tickets are bought in advance, the group concluded."

For Maynard's full story on airline re-regulation, click here: