Capital Briefs September 4-18

PALIN PROPHETS: Of the many participants in HUMAN EVENTS’ recent survey of national conservative leaders about who should be John McCain’s running mate (See HUMAN EVENTS, August 25) only two had Sarah Palin on their list of top three vice presidential favorites: radio commentator Mark Levin and the President of Hillsdale College, Dr. Larry Arnn. Another political veteran — albeit certainly not a conservative nor anyone Levin and Arnn would like being linked to — who saw something dramatic coming from McCain was leftist gadfly James Carville. Asked at a Christian Science Monitor press lunch during the Democratic National Convention who he thought McCain will turn to, the “Ragin’ Cajun” predicted that “it will be a big surprise and something dramatic. One thing John McCain and I have in common is that we’re both crapshooters.”

CATCHING THEIR EARMARKERS: One thing that conservative reformers in Congress find exciting about John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin is that the GOP vice presidential hopeful is on the same page as they are about ending earmarks. At a news conference during the Republican National Convention last week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) joined with House conservatives in hailing both McCain and Palin as opponents of the pork-barrel practice they have vowed to end. “John McCain has promised to veto spending bills if they have one single earmark in them and Sarah Palin has vetoed earmarks as governor,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R.-Tex.). Insisting that their movement is catching fire, Rep. John Kline (R.-Minn.) told the reporters that the number of House members who have signed the pledge not to seek any earmarks for their districts has swelled from 12 to 50 this year. When HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi asked how this cause can succeed when past movements to roll back government agencies or shrink the size of government have crashed and burned in Congress, Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) replied that this latest effort to fight spending was different. “Abolishing government programs is not the topic here,” Shadegg told Gizzi, “And the difference from past [anti-spending] movements is twofold: The American people have finally caught on after the reports of earmarks for family members of congressmen and the ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’ And we would finally have a President on our side — if John McCain is elected.”

SHORTENING THE REVELRY? — With ABC, NBC, and CBS slashing their coverage of both national conventions to four hours per night and John McCain insisting all evening activities on Monday be canceled because of Hurricane Gustav, the talk of drastically shortened party conventions in the future grew once again. The National Journal reported from St. Paul that some Republicans talked seriously of revising rules to cut back the four-day conventions, with veteran New Hampshire GOP strategist Tom Rath telling the Journal that “conventions, like fish, start to smell after three days.” But David Norcross, who chairs the Republican National Committee’s Rules Committee, shot back that “I don’t give a damn what the networks do. An hour here, an hour there, they cover what they want to cover. And I don’t think we should really care.” However, since there will be an unprecedented special committee dealing with rules for the 2012 convention (see “Gizzi on Politics,” Page 21), there is a possibility rules that shorten the conventioneering will surface.

NEW DAYS OF RAGE: A number of anti-war radicals and self-styled anarchists made an attempt to re-enact the violent protests of 1968 Chicago infamy during the GOP convention in St. Paul last week. Police estimated that 10,000 opponents of the U.S. presence in Iraq — far lower than the 30,000 claimed by protest leaders — descended on St. Paul. Although most were peaceful marchers, six or seven different groups engaged in violent activity outside the convention center, including the much-reported assault on the Connecticut delegation in which protestors tossed bottles of bleach at the officials and tore credentials from the neck of 83-year-old former State Chairman Fred Biebel. Police told reporters that 78 demonstrators had been arrested before the adjournment of the convention and 18 charged with felonies. Among the antiwar activists participating in the march were Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and supporters of the presidential campaigns of Ralph Nader and Ron Paul.

OVERHEARD ON CONVENTION BUS: The excitement that followed Sarah Palin’s convention speech was carried by delegates back to their hotels after adjournment of the Republican National Convention following her nomination last week. On the bus carrying delegates from Connecticut and South Dakota, as passengers were chanting, “Who’s going to be our Vice President? SARAH PALIN!” one quipster called out: “Why isn’t it Palin-McCain instead of the other way around?”
LIEBERMAN AND HIS BASE: Two days after his convention address, Sen. Joe Lieberman made a surprise visit to the breakfast meeting of Connecticut’s delegation. In recalling how he won re-election two years ago as an independent after his defeat in the Democratic primary, Lieberman told his Republican audience how he saw a survey that showed 70% of Republicans voted for him in November, along with 55% of independent voters. Only about 30% of his fellow Democrats stayed with him in the general, the senator noted. “It would have been a hassle for me [to support John McCain for President] had I been re-elected with the normal vote, he said, “So you could say I’m here to thank my base.” The Independent-Democratic senator went on to praise Sarah Palin’s speech as “spectacular” and said that watching her speak reminded him of the title of Bernard Malamud’s classic book about a baseball great: The Natural.