Miracle worker.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Sept. 4 2005 4:05 PM

Miracle Worker

Bush longs for James Lee Witt, the Clinton man he should have kept.

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… And We'll Roberts You in '05: After the debacle of its first ad, which accused Roberts of excusing violence at abortion clinics, NARAL launched a second ad this past week. The new ad displays warm and fuzzy photos with the numbing message, "Roberts's legal record raises questions on whether he accepts the right to privacy." Take that, focus groups: "John Roberts—Question Raiser."

To be sure, NARAL is in a no-win position. They're right about Roberts's record, even if the Washington CW prefers to view those questions as the strategic beauty of the Roberts nomination. But unless you're a media consultant or fund-raiser working on commission, there's no point in running ads that won't move either public or elite opinion. Ads backfire if, like NARAL's first effort, they go too far. But boring ads send elites the wrong signal as well: They're code for "we're shooting blanks."

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The Has-Been knows the ad voters want to hear: "John Roberts says he eats breakfast with his family. That's because he's afraid taxpayers will find out the real story: His breakfast is subsidized by your taxes, and he doesn't eat it at home—he eats it at work, in a federal job he'll have for life, even if he never leaves the cafeteria. John Roberts. He won't tell us the truth about where he stands. He won't even tell us the truth about where he eats."

None Dare Call It Treason: Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Roberts "once wrote an entire White House memorandum in French." Isn't that precisely the kind of behavior Republicans just fought the entire 2004 election to prevent? If Roberts were running for president, he'd be out of the race by now.

I didn't have the savoir-faire to work in the Reagan White House, but in the Clinton White House, we had enough trouble with lawyers who wrote memos in English. If a member of his staff had written the late Lloyd Cutler, Clinton's White House counsel, an entire memo in French, Cutler would have loyally reported him to the Secret Service.

I'm sure Roberts has a good explanation for why we shouldn't investigate him for treason. He was probably just too modest to write the whole thing in Latin.

Coming Attractions:Attention, Judge Roberts—to help make your confirmation hearings a little more interesting, Has-Been readers have already submitted more than 100 offbeat questions you won't be expecting. We could share them with you now, but we'd rather unveil them on Tuesday. One hundred questions, at five weeks apiece: With your usual preparation, you'll be ready in 10 years. Have a great weekend! ... 10:38 A.M. (link)

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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005

Lead or Lag: To his credit, President Bush is pulling out all the stops to respond to the tragic impact of Hurricane Katrina. Hopefully, Bush will live up to Presidential historian Fred Greenstein's  remarkably Bush-like observation  that "the can-do stuff ... is something he can do," unlike "the other cerebral stuff."

Bush could use the work. After hitting an all-time low in Gallup last week, the president just set a new personal worst in the latest Washington Post–ABC News poll. His ratings of 53 percent disapproval and 41 percent strong disapproval top Clinton's career highs of 51 percent and 37 percent.