Politics, 2005: Observations from the cheap seats
By Vincent Fiore
Once again, one of my editors asked if I would write a piece that essentially scores and scorns through a series of observations, various political figures and the arena in which they perform. Last year's effort was so much fun, that I could hardly resist his request for what is turning out to be an annual event for us. Presented to you, the reader, here are my annual "Vincent" awards for 2005.
Democrat to Watch: There are a few worth mentioning here. Everyone's favorite would be Hillary Rodham Clinton, who daily attempts to balance herself between the demands of the hard left that run the Democratic Party, and the much-ballyhooed middle -- or Independents -- that at times seem to run her. Honorable mentions would be Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who has a good sense of timing about him, and Senator John McCain, whose recent bill that...sorry! McCain, of course, is a Republican.
Democrat to Forget: You thought we would have already, but like a bad rash, Senator John Kerry never seems to go away. Kerry -- who fought in Vietnam, in case you didn't know -- has changed little since his losing presidential bid in 2004. His Iraq policy is as muddled as ever, and his leadership qualities as viewed in the Senate are worse than those of the runner-up in this category, Senate minority leader Harry Reid. Reid, you may remember, took over for defeated minority leader Tom Daschle. At least Daschle had a plan, and executed it -- rightly or wrongly. Reid, on the other hand, vacillates between being led by the left of his party, and executing political stunts in hopes of tripping-up Senate Republicans
Republican to Watch: No one really stands out here as Senate Republicans -- as a body -- have demonstrated how spineless and elitist they can be. I will give Majority Leader Bill Frist some credit, who rallied back to get some of Bush's judicial choices passed in the Senate, and will keep the GOP together when it comes time to vote on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Senator George Allen is shaping up as the natural choice for conservatives in 2008, while the media candidate-in-waiting, John McCain, remains a favorite of the cameras.
Republican(s) to Forget: So many names, so little space. The entire "Gang of Seven" or the "Mod Squad" as they were sometimes called, comes to mind. The "Gang," you will remember, decided to exert its will along with seven Democrats to effectively stall Bush's judicial nominees. Thanks to Senators Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, John Warner, Mike DeWine, Lincoln Chafee, and Mr. "maverick" himself, John McCain, these paragons of principle have time and again thwarted the will of some 62 million voters and the Republican President they reelected.
Most Over-Reported Story: This is the toughest question of the bunch. The scribes of the old media were just overjoyed over the thought of seeing Karl Rove "frog marched" as depicted by former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson. "Plamegate" or "Rovegate" turned out to be a bust for Democrats and the media that loves them, as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald managed only one indictment. Story number two has to be everyone's favorite grieving mother, Cindy Sheehan. Sheehan was last seen in Texas wondering aloud why anything else was newsworthy at all when she, Cindy Sheehan, was here, and ready for her close-ups.
Most Underreported Story: Project Able Danger. Did the Pentagon finger Mohammed Atta a full year before the horrific attacks on 9/11? Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa) seems to think so. Whistler blowers Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer and Navy Captain Scott Phillpott believe so. Yet, official Washington, along with everyone's favorite rent-a-panel, the "bipartisan" 9/11 Commission, seems unimpressed over the prospect that most of what happened on September 11, 2001, can be traced back to the Clinton administration that had eight years to figure out Bin Laden as opposed to the Bush administration's eight months.
Rest in Peace: In all seriousness, Casey Sheehan. While you were away, Casey, your emotional but over-zealous, anti-war mother made a mockery of your bravery and your supreme sacrifice. By declaring that "This country (America) is not worth dying for," Cindy Sheehan forgets and dishonors your death, and shames the flag that you fought for. RIP, Casey Sheehan.
Flash in the Pan: Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle. This partisan hack-of-a-DA has actually shopped through numerous grand juries in hopes of finding one that would indict House majority Leader Tom DeLay, (R-Texas) As of this writing, the "conspiracy" charge against DeLay has been dismissed, as possibly will Earle's single remaining charge of "money laundering. Earle's fifteen minutes are fast coming to an end.
Real Deal: The Conservative Movement. Up until a few weeks ago, I had asked a question that in reality was just the echo of many who asked the same thing: "Is the Conservative Movement dead?" Since then, Bush and the Republican majority have sent Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, cut $55 billion in spending, and started to talk about real Immigration reform -- like fences, security, and actual law enforcement. Bush's recent Iraq offensive is also a welcome development, as more is going right in Iraq than the old media, and Democrats, would have you believe.
The Defining Moment: President Bush's appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. After his dalliance with White House majordomo Harriet Miers, Bush heard the anguished cries of the party faithful who not only wanted a known conservative appointed to the bench, but also were spoiling for an open dialogue over the judiciary and its function. Selecting Alito may have saved the Bush presidency from irrelevancy, and possibly huge losses for the GOP in 2006 and 2008.
Man/Woman of the Year: DNC Chairman Howard Dean is certainly the gift that keeps on giving. As of this writing, Dean had just stated that the "idea that we're (U.S.) going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong." Never having appreciated the beauty of the unspoken thought, Dean continues to say things that -- because of the sheer idiocy these comments represent -- help the GOP. Republicans ought to donate to the Democratic Party on the condition that they keep Dean around for another term, at least.
Missed Opportunity: Killing the unconstitutional filibustering of judicial nominees. In May, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist could have called a vote on changing the Senate rules to give a nominee and up or down vote, thereby preserving the Senate's traditional "advice and consent" function. Instead, Frist lingered, causing a nonsensical and non-binding pact among the 14 senators that the beltway has come to know as the "gang of fourteen."
The "Stuck on Stupid" Award: Back by popular demand, the entire editorial staff of the New York Times. It is hardly news to say that the New York Times openly shills for the Democratic Party. It is also not original to say that the New York Times prints what it deems will be hurtful to the Bush administration. What is news is the seemingly lack of shame -- any shame -- from the paper's staff. Even the Times ombudsman -- along with some 200,000-plus readers -- has cancelled his subscription.
The year 2005 made for an interesting and exhilarating time in the political arena. For my money, the view from the cheap seats has never been better. And just when you think you've seen it all.
See you in 2006.
Vincent Fiore is a freelance political writer who lives in New York City. He receives e-mail at
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