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Blogging Bush (continued)

Attack of the killer peacock. Brian Williams tried out his best perturbed look when noting that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi had vowed to continue fighting Bush’s "extremist" agenda. The wingnuts don’t flood you with as many e-mails if you signal them that you think the Democrats are loony-tunes. But then Williams had to contend with a tough Bush critique from an unexpected source — Tim Russert (again), who wondered how Bush would apply his aggressive doctrine to Iran, North Korea, or Cuba. How indeed? (Lyndon Johnson, memorably, "lost" Walter Cronkite over Vietnam. Is Bush losing Russert?)

Russert, though, was just warming up. It turned out he had some new poll numbers with some very bad news for our only president. For instance:

• Bush’s approval/disapproval rating is 50 percent/44 percent, the worst of any newly re-elected president since Richard Nixon.

• Only 40 percent of respondents say that removing Saddam Hussein was worth it; 52 percent say it wasn’t worth it. Among independents, Russert reported, 56 percent say it wasn’t worth it.

• Was Bush’s victory a mandate to change Society Security? Thirty-three percent say yes; 56 percent say no.

• Just 33 percent say that congressional Democrats should act in a "bipartisan" manner; 57 percent say they should "provide balance" — as in, fight like Nancy Pelosi.

"The president has to be very, very careful not to overplay his mandate," Russert said.

It makes you wonder how Bush ever got elected, doesn’t it?

Prime time

Who’s the man? On MSNBC, the Kennedy School’s Juliette Kayyem was yakking with Keith Olbermann about the terrorist threat involving Boston. Dirty bombs, radiation, blah, blah, blah. You know what? If we’re going to die, we’re going to die. So I switched to CNN, where Anderson Cooper, doing party duty, was interviewing Don King. Much better. If TV coverage of Inauguration Day has been lacking anything, it’s the freak factor. I had hoped E! would have Joan Rivers yowling outside the parties, but no such luck.

King, whose hair isn’t nearly the conversation piece it used to be, was wearing a tux and more chains than a prisoner at Abu Ghraib. He praised Bush — or, as he referred to him about 15 times, "George Walker Bush." He compared him to Abraham Lincoln. He praised "No Child Left Behind, which is so vitally important." Hmmm ... is King getting any of that Department of Education money?

"You’re the man, Anderson Cooper," King said, certainly the first time anyone has said that. But King was apparently wrong — within minutes, presidential nephew Pierce Bush would tell Larry King, "Larry, you’re the man." Of course, it’s certainly possible that they’re both the men.

King also called himself a "Republicrat," a word that had Paula Zahn puzzled. "I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase before," she said. Obviously she’s never listened to Ralph Nader. Lucky woman!

Happy smiley faces. I indulged myself and skipped The O’Reilly Factor. There’s only so much one can be expected to take. I’m doing penance by watching Hannity & Colmes, but it’s boring tonight. Sean, as usual, is wearing more makeup than Pee-wee Herman, which is always good for a chuckle. But there are no liberals for him to fight with, so the show lacks its only appeal — its car-crash-at-the-side-of-the-road quality that makes you watch despite yourself.

Rudy Giuliani? Please — he’s the second-least-controversial Republican in the country after John McCain. Peggy Noonan? She can be wonderfully weird, but not tonight. (The next day, Noonan let Bush have it on OpinionJournal.com. His speech, she wrote, "left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike," adding that Bush’s thoughts "seemed marked by deep moral seriousness and no moral modesty." I wonder what Poppy said.) Ralph Reed? Now that held some promise, but they never gave him a chance to go nutty.

Why on earth wouldn’t Alan, at least, ask Reed if he and his fellow religious conservatives are pissed off that Bush is saying almost nothing about gay marriage? That might have been amusing. Instead, Reed was allowed to blather on at length about foreign policy. You’d think the guy was Prince Metternich instead of the little twerp who used to work for Pat Robertson. Reed did get in a plug for No Child Left Behind. Show us the Benjamins, Ralph.

Ooh, Bob Shrum’s on MSNBC with Chris Matthews. Looks like I missed him. Damn! I want to know how the Democrats can take back the White House in 2008. Maybe by "fighting for working families," Bob? Jesus. I guess if you lose often enough, you become a pundit.

The bin Laden vote. CNN’s Jeff Greenfield got two-thirds of the way there in his analysis of Bush’s "almost startling" speech. In batting it around with Aaron Brown, Greenfield wondered what Bush intended to do about a country like Pakistan — an ally in the war against terrorism, but a country that doesn’t hold elections. (At least it hasn’t since the current president, Pervez Musharraf, took power in a military coup.) What Greenfield left out was that if Pakistan did hold an election, a pretty good share of the populace would vote for Osama bin Laden.

Greenfield could have made the same observation about Saudi Arabia, too. And let’s not forget that the mullahs came to power in Iran through a popular revolution, even if they’re not too popular today. The problem with democracy is that you’re not always going to get what you want.

Stop making sense. Pat Buchanan, bless his twisted little heart, is making sense on MSNBC, and Joe Scarborough’s having none of it. Referring to 9/11, Buchanan said, "Why do you think they were over here? Because we were over there!" He could barely spit it out before Scarborough was accusing him of blaming America, comparing him to the late Susan Sontag, and telling viewers that Buchanan’s next column would appear in the New Yorker.

All in good fun, of course!

Andrew Sullivan — who’s getting absolutely creamed by Slate’s Mickey Kaus for his recent "I wasn’t as pro-war as you thought I was" posts — was sitting on the other side of the set. Maybe he’ll give Buchanan one of his loathsome Susan Sontag Awards.

After hours

The heat is on. Finally, The Daily Show is on. Other than a hilarious Stephen Colbert bit that is beyond my ability to describe, the best part was Jon Stewart reacting to Chris Dodd’s remark that Dick Cheney’s daughters would hold the family Bible during their father’s swearing-in.

"Actually, it’s not quite true," Stewart said. "Mary is not allowed to touch the family Bible." It was, he added, for her own good: "It burns."

Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy[a]phx.com. Read his Media Log at BostonPhoenix.com.

page 3 

Issue Date: January 28 - February 3, 2005
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