Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Senate's 'Quiet Man' Has a Big Role

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Senate's 'Quiet Man' Has a Big Role

Article excerpt

Yes, this mild, soft-spoken, affable man is, arguably, the third- most influential person in the United States. I'm referring to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, who was discussing national affairs with journalists at breakfast the other morning. In my opinion, he ranks after the president and the speaker of the House in influence.

At the end of the hour's session as moderator, I said I was struck by how low-key and understated he was, and wondered whether he realized what an important public figure he had become of late. He smiled and - saying he just had a job to do, and he was trying to do it - quietly changed the subject.

Senator Daschle speaks softly all right; but he also carries a big stick - and, on occasion, uses it. He came to this same Monitor breakfast during the early months of the last presidential campaign and urged us reporters to turn our gaze away from President Clinton's personal problems for a while and to look into candidate George W. Bush's personal background.

Shortly after that, Governor Bush, under pressure from journalistic questioning, disclosed his bout with liquor during his youth - and how he had stopped drinking at age 40.

And now the Capitol's "Quiet Man" was sitting with us at breakfast only a few hours after stirring up a political ruckus by criticizing President Bush's handling of foreign affairs at the very moment that Mr. Bush was visiting Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and was headed for Italy and his first economic summit.

A miffed National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice phoned Mr. Daschle, complaining that it was a break from traditional bipartisanship for the leader of the other party to criticize a president when he was abroad. Daschle said to reporters afterward that he should probably have given more thought to Bush being abroad when he made these comments - but that he was sticking to his guns.

Daschle had said in an interview that there was a fragile relationship "that is becoming more and more evident" between the US and its allies and then added: "I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we're minimizing ourselves. …

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