Capital Briefs: June 4-8

BUSH’S OUTBURST:  The ill-tempered attack President Bush delivered in Georgia last Tuesday against opponents of his immigration plan reminded many conservatives of the heavy-handed criticism (“a whiff of sexism” and a “whiff of elitism”) they received from Bush White House adviser Ed Gillespie because they were fighting the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.  Hoping the amnesty bill fails as completely as Miers, conservatives around the country were galvanized by Bush’s attack on their supposedly “empty political rhetoric,” his insulting claim that opponents “haven’t read the bill” (the Heritage Foundation had by then even posted the text on its website), and Bush’s condescending charge that those who want to kill the bill “don’t want to do what’s right for America.”  In response to the President’s remarks, David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said, “I don’t think name-calling does any good at this point,” and that the bill has “been badly handled” and, “given the attitudes in the country,” the administration “will be lucky to come up with anything.”

When Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi later asked Tony Snow whether the President went too far with those remarks and whether he was referring to two Republican presidential hopefuls who have denounced the bill (Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney), the White House press secretary insisted Bush was not.  “No, he wasn’t,” Snow told Gizzi, “and I know that for a fact.”

THOMPSON IN RACE:  To no one’s surprise, Fred Thompson strongly signaled last week that before long he would make his unannounced bid for the Republican presidential nomination official, with a formal announcement likely to come on July 4. Grass-roots conservatives and elected officials such as Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Pennsylvania House Speaker Dennis O’Brien have already given their blessings to the former Tennessee senator and TV actor and even likened him to Ronald Reagan. But among the initial players in Thompson’s exploratory committee, there are no notable conservatives and many familiar moderate GOPers. Among them are Tom Collamore, a former Commerce Department official in the first Bush Administration, as campaign manager, and former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner, as general counsel to the campaign. Thompson’s two closest advisers remain former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R.-Tenn.) and Ken Rietz, another Tennessean, who is a veteran of Richard Nixon’s campaigns.

NEW CLINTON PATRON: Bill and Hillary Clinton have been taking every advantage of a relationship with a very wealthy CEO friend, the Washington Post reported last week. Vinod Gupta, CEO of the technology firm InfoUSA, met Bill in the mid-1990s, and, according to the Post, “quickly became a generous patron.”

The help for the Clintons since becoming friends with Gupta include: a $3.3-million consulting deal the former President secured with InfoUSA; $900,000 worth of travel to Switzerland, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico and other destinations on Gupta’s corporate plane; “at least $1 million to help underwrite a lavish millennium New Year’s Eve celebration at the White House and on the Mall;” $200,000 to Bill for a speech to InfoUSA executives in Papillion, Neb.; a six-figure gift to Clinton’s presidential library; $250,000 to Bill’s global charity; donations totalling more than $220,000 to the Democratic Party during Hillary’s 2000 Senate campaign; and a $5,000 donation to Hillary’s political action committee in December.

Hillary has attempted to deflect criticisms of the Clinton couple’s convenient relationship with Gupta, gifts that Bill can freely use for himself but Hillary cannot because of Senate rules, saying that her campaign has reimbursed Gupta according to federal guidelines.
The Post reported that Sen. Clinton, “who has complained about corporate America’s largesse and skyrocketing executive pay … said she did not believe her message was undermined by her acceptance of the private flights. In line with Senate rules then in effect, Clinton’s campaign has said she reimbursed Gupta at the cost of a first-class flight, typically a significant discount off the expense of a private jet.”

BAILOUT: In a pattern that has been common with past administrations in their twilight days, many top officials of the Bush Administration have recently announced they are leaving their jobs for the private sector. White House Political Director Sara Taylor, a protégé of Karl Rove, became the latest to exit, her departure coming on the heels of that of Deputy National Security Advisor J.D. Crouch. Other key positions that have been vacant for weeks are those of deputy attorney general, assistant attorney general for the environment, secretary of the Army, and assistant secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights.

AMNESTY’S HUGE COST: One aspect of his immigration/amnesty program that President Bush does not mention is its enormous potential cost to American taxpayers. As Mike Franc points out in “Legislative Lowdown” (see page 9), quoting studies by the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, the billions, even trillions, in costs will have to be paid through drastic reductions in welfare programs, Social Security and Medicare or equally drastic increases in our tax burden.

ROMNEY JFK SPEECH? On NBC’s “Today” show last Wednesday, co-host Matt Lauer, noting that there were many questions among the public about the Mormon faith, asked GOP candidate Mitt Romney, “Should you just come out with a Kennedy moment and say, ‘Look, folks, here’s the deal. Here’s what I stand for?’” Romney replied, “Well, there may well be opportunities to do that.” In fact, Human Events has learned that such a JFK-type speech about his religion has already been written for Romney and is only awaiting his decision to deliver it.

MCCAIN EXPLODES, SHOCKING NO ONE: One reason many Republicans are very nervous about putting Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) in the White House is his explosive temper. And it was again on display last month when he verbally attacked Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.).McCain threw several expletives, including the F-word, at Cornyn in a committee meeting when Cornyn questioned the number of judicial appeals illegal immigrants would have under McCain’s immigration bill. This is the latest big explosion the media have reported about McCain, whose temper is infamous in the press and the Senate.

NEWT’S RULES FOR ’08: Should he run for President in ’08, Newt Gingrich will not participate in the now-commonplace televised debates among the 10 Republicans who are already official candidates. “I am totally uninterested in applying for a game show as if this were ‘Bachelor’ or ‘American Idol,’” Gingrich told reporters last week, dismissing the broadcasts held so far in Southern California and Columbia, S.C., as “game-show, 30-second answer, so-called pseudo-debates…” The former House speaker indicated that, if he becomes a candidate, he will probably announce in November. (“One year before the election. Somehow that strikes me as good a time as any.”) He said that an announcement “will not be on Leno or Letterman or Comedy Central. The whole point of running would be to have some dignity. To have seriousness.”