John McCaslin

President Bush didn't come right out and call the nation's top newspaper editors a bunch of communists Wednesday, but he came pretty close.

"Thank you for having me here, members of the Politburo," Bush deadpanned to newspaper executives at the head table of a gathering of the Newspaper Association of America, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press. "I mean, my fellow Americans."

The crack prompted laughter at the gathering of editors and publishers at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. The Fourth Estate evidently found it funny to be compared to the chief political and executive committee of the Communist Party.

EMOTIONAL YEAR

Democratic turnout in the party's 2004 presidential primaries was low, the third-lowest on record.

Low enough that only 5 percent of eligible Americans participated in the selection of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as presumptive nominee to face President Bush in November.

Bush can't laugh. Republican presidential-primary turnout was the lowest on record.

Fortunately, we learn that turnout levels in presidential primaries are not a predictor of general-election turnout.

In fact, given major issues of concern among Americans today, the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate is predicting a "comparatively high" turnout this November - greater than in 2000 and 1996, and perhaps exceeding the 58 percent turnout of 1992.

"It is virtually inconceivable that general election turnout will not go up in 2004, likely to be equal or higher than the level reached in 1992," says CSAE director Curtis B. Gans, who cites the "strong emotions" Americans are feeling today about the future path of their country.

SURVIVAL TOOLS

We had to laugh when former Education Secretary Bill Bennett's interview with Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey on a recent "Morning in America" broadcast turned to the left wing's condemnation of the USA Patriot Act.

Bennett said it occurred to him that the Patriot Act - which allows the intelligence field and criminal investigators to share information and compare notes to keep Americans safe from al Qaeda-types - is used as a "synecdoche" in certain societal settings.

"It's like saying 'McCarthy' or 'Reagan' in another period - where you say the word and people shiver and shake," Bennett cited as examples. "But in fact there are few if any civil liberties violations that have been cited because of the Patriot Act, do I have that right?"


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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