WASHINGTON, D.C. -- These are tough times for liberal politicians, the "progressive" potentates of the print press and the blow dried air heads of "broadcast journalism."
They crave excitement in Washington. They thrive on bashing conservatives and fomenting controversy. But with the first Bush-Cheney administration still less than 100 days old, the bully boys of America's left have all but forsaken the airwaves. Has anyone seen the apologists of the last "exciting" administration --Paul Begala, James Carville, Terry McAuliffe or Jesse "The Love Machine" Jackson -- lately?
They have disappeared from cable-TV, driven underground by the shame of their champion, William the Impeached, and the collapse of their fatally flawed ideology. And nobody misses them -- except their friends in the so-called mainstream media.
Their mentor, the great intellectual, Bill Clinton, used to talk of a "paradigm shift" in American politics. He and his wife ("you get two for the price of one") purported to be "New Democrats" but squandered a two-term opportunity to create a "moderate centrist" party in a self-inflicted tidal wave of scandal that excited everyone -- and swamped their administration.
Revelations that Clinton relatives-turned bail bondsmen took hundreds of thousands of dollars to negotiate a last-minute pandemic of pardons for fugitives and criminals, shocked and silenced the Clintons' most fervent supporters as no "vast right-wing conspiracy" could. To add insult to injury, the much-maligned and underestimated George W. Bush is quietly implementing his campaign promises.
The change in Washington has been palpable and profound. Despite an abbreviated transition, America's first MBA president hit the ground running. He chose a mature and experienced Cabinet, ensuring their Senate confirmations. Like a good CEO, he establishes policies, sets guidelines and delegates authority to subordinates. He's early to bed, early to rise and punctual. T-shirt and blue jeans-clad White House staffers are history.
The White House press corps is getting used to events that start and finish on time. And common courtesy is becoming the order of the day. Last week, when two reporters' cell-phones interrupted an Oval Office photo-op with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Bush asked press assistant Gordon Johndroe, "Gordon, are you in charge of cell phones?" What a change from his predecessor's fiery temper tantrums, screaming spousal clashes, profane outbursts and legendary tardiness.
Such anecdotes would become the stuff of White House folklore if they weren't backed by substance. And therein lies the real anguish of the left. George W. Bush is having his way with the issues like Bill Clinton had his way with interns. The new president's education, charitable choice, tax reform, military repair, budget and foreign policy initiatives are all proceeding apace through the Washington wickets -- and it's driving 'em nuts.
America's union bosses pulled out all the stops to keep the new administration from scuttling the onerous ergonomics regulations that Bill Clinton jammed through with that raft of pardons in the closing moments of his tenure. Bush made a few calls, and the House and Senate voted to repeal a costly economic sedative before it could take effect.
In a series of high-level meetings with heads of state and senior officials from Canada, Mexico, Russia, Israel and communist China, Bush clarified that the United States should not be the world's policeman or arbiter of every conflict but that we will defend our interests, protect our citizens and support both our friends and human rights. Meanwhile, to the chagrin of appeasers at home and adversaries overseas, Colin Powell has been methodically defanging Euro-pacifist opponents of ballistic missile defense.
The tax debate is no longer about whether the federal government will lighten our levy -- but by how much and how fast. Democrats Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt tried to blame Bush for the current economic slowdown. It didn't wash. Consumer confidence has rebounded in anticipation of a retroactive rebate and a long-term tax rate cut.
Media efforts to fan the flames of a Bush-McCain rivalry over campaign finance reform have fallen flat as well. Bush knows the Senate's two-week hike through the weeds of campaign finance reform has flushed a turkey that will get shot down by the House or the Supreme Court.
Despite the howls of enviro-radicals, President Bush decided that he's not going to call the CO2 we exhale with every breath a pollutant and announced he has "no interest" in implementing Al Gore's Kyoto Environmental Treaty.
And, as if to frost the liberals' cake, White House counsel Al Gonzalez sent a letter on March 22 to the American Bar Association informing them they would no longer have "a preferential, quasi-official role" in selecting candidates for the federal bench. Sen. Joe Biden called the decision "outrageous." Sen. Barbara Boxer, the outspoken critic of firearms declared, "It's war." The White House responded to their whining with "no comment."
My colleagues in the so-called mainstream media complain that things just aren't as exciting in Washington as they were when Bill Clinton was in town. Maybe. But for most of us, Clinton provided more excitement than we needed or wanted. If the media wants excitement, they can go to Chappequa and watch their buddy Bill play frisbee with his housemate -- Buddy the dog.