Stabbed in the Back
Blankley, Tony, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Tony Blankley
In an effort to make him appear taller, aides to Sen. Tom Daschle have taken to stacking phone books in his chair when he and Dick Gephardt hold joint news conferences seated behind a conference table, The Hotline (Washington's political tidbit bible) reported.
While Mr. Daschle's little visual deception was innocent enough, it betokens a more fundamental instinct to deceive. The subtle shade of the Daschle method was made visible last week when he accused President Bush of being an isolationist, citing as evidence Mr. Bush's support of missile defense and opposition to the proposed Kyoto treaty.
Last Wednesday in an exclusive interview with USA Today/Gannett, Mr. Daschle made the isolationist charge and also claimed that British Prime Minster Tony Blair's offer to serve as an intermediary between Mr. Bush and European leaders was evidence of Mr. Bush's incompetence. Those charges appeared in the Thursday USA Today, just as Mr. Bush was flying to England to start his week-long European G-8 Summit meetings.
When Mr. Bush and some reporters accused Mr. Daschle of violating the tradition of not attacking our presidents when they are beyond the water's edge, Mr. Daschle excused himself with the explanation: "Had I given some thought to the fact that the president was departing, I probably would have chosen a different time to make those comments."
The casual observer might well see these remarks as the straightforward words of a sincere man, especially when they are delivered in Mr. Daschle's patented hesitant, self-effacing, more-in sorrow-than-in-anger manner. But they were consciously deceitful and intended to do unfair damage to the president.
The charge that the president is an isolationist is risible. Mr. Bush is a thoroughgoing free-trade internationalist. He proposed that both Europe and Russia share in the protection that will be provided from outlaw nations by our missile defense plan. He is actively and personally negotiating a U.S./Russian nuclear arms deal. His opposition to the Kyoto treaty is a difference of opinion - not an act of isolation. Indeed, when Mr. Daschle had a chance to vote for the treaty he also didn't support it (the Senate vote was 95-0 against the treaty). Mr. Bush's actions fairly might be called unilateralist - but not isolationist.
The choice of words matters - and Mr. Daschle knows it. Back in 1995, when I was then-Speaker Newt Gingrich's press secretary, the Clinton White House focus-grouped the word isolationist. Finding out that the American public reacts with strong negativity to that word, they started accusing Newt of being isolationist - even though they knew that Newt was a passionate free trade, pro-NAFTA internationalist. I was told by European journalists and government officials at the time that Mr. …