Tony Blankley

This goes to the heart of the Democrat's displeasure with Russ "Hang-'em High" Feingold. He centered his censure motion on Mr. Bush's alleged violation of the FISA law. But wiser Democrats understood the political dis-utility of going after the president by using a legal pettifoggering interpretation (or mis-interpretation) of a law to stop the president from the wildly popular act of monitoring terrorist communications into our country.

Sen. Feingold has all the early indications of being this season's Eugene McCarthy -- without the wit or poetry.

Meanwhile in the Republican Party primary campaign, their non-team player, Sen. John McCain, also played the Bush card. In a heartfelt tribute to his beloved commander in chief while at war, Sen. McCain (George Bush's 2000 primary challenger) asked all his many supporters at the Republican Party straw poll conclave in Tennessee last weekend to cast their votes for Bush rather than McCain.

In the event, Bush got only 10 percent. The trouble with McCain's generous gesture was that almost everyone (including even his most admiring big journalism commentators) couldn't help but speculate that McCain's gesture might not have been motivated by a sense of willing sacrifice.

As a party gadfly who has gone out of his way to be rude to conservative southern Christian leaders over the years, McCain was not expected to have much support in a meeting down south of party regulars and conservative Christian leaders. So his forswearing of any support seemed calculated to hide the lack of much support to forswear in the first place.

This would be business as usual for most politicians -- and perhaps even admired as a shrewd move. But as Sen. McCain has made his reputation on the appearance of being a "straight-shooter," any appearance of duplicity -- whether real or only apparent -- will tend to undercut his greatest strength.

Moreover, he and his aides should have been shrewd enough to anticipate the doubt that such a maneuver would induce. However, he has a deep reservoir of national admiration (outside of the truest Republican precincts), so he has done himself only a very little harm. But he should take this event as a lesson to stick with the image "what brung him to the dance."

All presidential elections are, to a measurable degree, a referendum on the sitting president who is to be replaced. Over the next two and a half years the Bush card will be played over and over again by every candidate in both parties. It is both the most powerful and most dangerous card in the deck. It is always wild, inducing both love and hate in different voters simultaneously. It should be a warning to all aspirants, that in this first round of political poker, it was misplayed by both the men who dealt it.


Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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