The Truth, Mainly - 10/29/2001

A new scorecard of strange bedfellows
by Leon Satterfield

War, even more than politics, makes strange bedfellows.

No, I don't mean our getting between the sheets with the Afghan Northern Alliance—whose thugs may be as thuggish as the Taliban's thugs. And I don't mean having the Russians as our allies.

I mean this odd alliance—patriotic, I suppose, but still odd—between our own homegrown right and left wings.

You know, those two factions who'll do and say anything to make sure we vote for the proper candidates. And that's how they were operating even up to the beginning of this month. The Oct. 7 Washington Post carried a story about the right wing blaming the war on—who else?—Bill Clinton. GOP Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher said Slick Willie was the root cause: "We had Bill Clinton backing off, letting the Taliban go, over and over again."

And Rush Limbaugh was writing that "Mr. Clinton can be held culpable for not doing enough…to combat terrorists who wound up attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon." Just as predictably, the left was counterattacking.

Jennifer Palmieri, a member of the Democratic National Committee, called attacks on Clinton "obscene," and a former Clinton "senior official" got downright nasty: "These guys were in power for nine months before September 11…we stopped the millennium bombings; they did not stop this."

And so forth—the kind of talk we've all learned to love and expect.

But by Oct. 20, perceptions were changing.

The NY Times quoted a Democrat, Rep. James P. Moran, saying, "I feel comfortable with President Bush." And 15 other "prominent Gore loyalists" agreed that Gore couldn't have done a better job than the President was doing. Gore himself said that Bush "is my commander in chief, he is president of the United States. And I refuse to second guess his decisions." By last week, things were getting curiouser and curiouser. The bipartisan affection got downright embarrassing in an Oct. 23 Times story.

It was about Democrats and Republicans hugging each other.

After his address to the joint meeting of Congress, President Bush hugged Democrat leaders Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Richard Gephardt.

The thing is, Sen. Trent Lott, the Republican leader, was standing there too, and the President didn't hug him. But, Sen. Lott said, "I gave him a very strong handshake." And guess what the Times is calling the President, Sen. Lott, Sen. Daschle, Rep. Gephardt, and the Republican Speaker, Dennis Hastert.

"The Gang of Five," that's what.

The gang has breakfast together once a week. The morning the President flew off to China, the other four gang members saw him off.

And on Sen. Lott's 60th birthday, Sen. Daschle showed up at a GOP luncheon with a cake and a hug for the birthday boy.

Sen. Chuck Hagel was there. You know what he said of the spectacle? He said "They almost held hands."

And that's not all. There's a strange—and probably benevolent—sleeping arrangement between the leftist NY Times and the rightist President—even though the Times is the newspaper the right wing loves to hate.

Oh sure. Scoff. Roll your eyes. Snort if you want to.

But you remember the election of 2000? All that mess in Florida? And that consortium of news organizations led by the Times that set out to examine the 180,000 Florida ballots that were thrown out?

We were told to expect a final report by the end of September. But here it is the end of October and we still haven't heard any results—because the consortium hasn't reported any. A Sep. 23 piece in the Times said that even though the newspaper "had been scheduled this week to release the results," the recount "now seems utterly irrelevant…and has been put on hold indefinitely."

And that was the end of that—until Oct. 11 when a Canadian publication, The Globe and Mail, said the story had been "spiked," and quoted a Times executive as saying "Right now, we don't have the time, the personnel or the space in the newspaper to focus on this. There's a much bigger story now."

And that, The Globe and Mail said, raised "questions about whether the country's biggest media conglomerates are suppressing news that potentially could tarnish the image of Mr. Bush in the midst of his war on terrorism."

I suppose that if the recount would in fact "tarnish the image" of the President, this is not the time we need to find out about it.

But the NY Times and President Bush, those two icons of American left and right, in bed together? Now those are very strange bedfellows.

It makes it hard for inky wretches who write columns to keep score.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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