Hot potato.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Aug. 31 2007 5:57 PM

Hot Potato

Republicans can't drop Larry Craig fast enough.

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Thompson changed his tune on immigration as rapidly as Romney, attacking the bill on the grounds that " we're in a nation that is beset by suicidal maniacs" – apparently an all-purpose reference to terrorists, immigrants, and any legislator attempting to work with the Bush administration. Last week, Thompson opened a new front, telling the National Restaurant Association that to support its energy habit, China is "making deals with every bloodthirsty dictator they can." Soon, he'll start rewriting his own history to suggest that the only campaign finance reform he supported was for China.

At the Democratic debate, Bill Richardson raised the prospect of pulling out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He won't find many takers, given the failure of the 1980 boycott. But it does suggest a cheap applause line for Thompson and other Republicans: If Mitt Romney did so much to turn the Olympics around, what are they doing in China?

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There are plenty of good reasons to make China an issue in 2008. Bush will be gone soon, but the money he borrowed will complicate our relationship with the Chinese for years. As a full-service bank, China even wrote Bush's climate change policy. At a time when the planet needs China to go green, the Bush deficits set a different course: Green goes to China.

Unfortunately, Thompson has yet to offer any more answers to the China question than Bush did. The next President will have to curb our financial dependence on our biggest strategic competitor, convince that superpower as well as ours to curb a dangerous appetite for carbon, toughen enforcement of trade laws, and rally Americans to study harder, learn more, and work harder to keep pace with the competitive challenge.

At the very moment we ought to be summoning the will to outrun China, the Chinese are once again conspiring to sap our strength. Hours after Fred Thompson and Bill Richardson rattled their sabers, Chinese sympathizers in our midst made a surprise announcement: The panda at the National Zoo may once again be pregnant.

Coincidence, or well-orchestrated distraction? For years, zoologists have told us how hard it is for captive pandas to reproduce. But Mei Xiang gave birth less than two years ago. The Chinese were set to repossess her last cub, Tai Shan – code name "Butterstick" – on its second birthday next month, but to avert bad publicity, China let us negotiate a contract extension. Now, with the motherland in desperate need of a public relations boost, Mei Xiang miraculously had no trouble at all getting pregnant.

Zoologists attribute the feat to improved panda sperm – from Gao Gao, another China native stationed in San Diego. But you don't have to be a good shepherd to know that pandas have been China's most effective American infiltrators for more than three decades.

Once the right-wing base finds out, of course, the China debate can only go in one direction. McCain has more pets than he can count, but the other candidates are out to bag their limit. Romney shot rabbits. Giuliani dissed ferrets. The next TV series to pilot on the GOP trail is bound to be, "Fred Thompson: Panda Hunter." ... 7:49 P.M. ( link)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Smiley Face: For decades, political consultants have dreamed of creating the Bionic Candidate, who could instantly become whatever voters want. Over the years, plenty of politicians have been willing to believe whatever the electorate wants them to believe. But mad political scientists have searched in vain for the extraterrestrial alloy that would enable a politician to transform his physical appearance so that voters could literally see what they wanted to see.

The search is over. Despite what his critics say, Mitt Romney is not just another shameless political opportunist who changes his views to match his audience. Nor is he just a scheming cyborg who can immediately spot the second-most ambitious pol in the room. Romney has a unique, superhuman capacity that transcends both those more pedestrian political talents. When people look at him, he can actually make them think they see someone else.

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