The Grand Old Gang that can't shoot straight ought to be particularly nice to Hillary Clinton and maybe even Barack Obama. Without an opponent like one of these worthies, the Republican candidate for president next year wouldn't stand a chance.
Hillary and Obama are racing to exploit the national fury at Don Imus, the potty-mouth talk-radio host. Mr. Obama says he will never go on Imus in the Morning, and not in the evening, either, and late yesterday Hillary hurried off to Rutgers to commiserate with the young women of the basketball team whom Mr. Imus called "nappy-headed hos."
Their political instincts are sharp and consistent. They know their constituency, and they're careful to scratch their folks where it itches. Democratic pols know how to satisfy. Some of their Republican counterparts, on the other hand, are just as eager sometimes more so to scratch the itches of Democrats as to tend to the tingling places of their own.
Newt Gingrich, the man that some conservatives, unhappy with John McCain's economic notions and unimpressed by Rudy Giuliani's social conscience, briefly imagined could save the Reagan legacy, is merely the man who can't shut up.
The debate over global warming, and who and what caused it is finally getting interesting, as authentic scholars are coming out of hiding to support the political arguments that some Republican pols have been making for months. Only this week, Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scoffed at the wishful claims that the debate is over.
"Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action," he writes in the current Newsweek. "This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe."
Indeed, the only catastrophe anyone can see this week is the brutal April snowstorm in the Midwest, breaking records for cold and ice in Chicago, Cleveland and even North Dakota. The peaches, apples, blueberries and grapes in a wide swath of the Southeast from Arkansas eastward to the Carolinas, were ruined by record-breaking freezes. The global temperatures germane to the debate are averages, compiled over many years, but the spring freeze was a reminder that when man proposes God disposes, whether we believe in Him or not. But the Republicans are always ready to surrender.
Newt Gingrich, for example, was enlisted by one of the think tanks to debate John Francois Kerry about the causes and prospective cures of global warming (only in Washington do men think they can take on God, and prevail) in what the moderator described as "a smackdown and a prizefight." Men and women arrived early to lick their chops in anticipation (or what passed for chops in an audience that leaned heavily toward vegetarianism). "Welcome to our environmental version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates," said a jocular Monsieur Kerry. "We flipped a coin, and I picked Lincoln."
If Monsieur Kerry imagined he had come to a debate, Newt quickly disabused him of such a nasty idea. He rushed to throw in the crying towel before the senator could get a word in edgewise, demonstrating once more that getting any word in edgewise, crosswise, vertical or horizontal is impossible in any conversation with Prof. Gingrich. Global warming is real, man has done it, and "we should address it very actively," Newt said. In the world of politics, of course, talking about it is about as "actively" as anyone needs to get.
But Newt was not yet finished. He held up Monsieur Kerry's book, "This Moment on Earth," and urged everyone to hurry down to the bookstore to get a copy of "a very interesting read." Besides, he has a personal reason to save the planet, he told Monsieur Kerry. "My name, Newt, actually comes from the Danish Knut," and added something about a polar bear. Soon the "smackdown" and "prizefight" was over, and the two "debaters" stood up to put their arms around each other. "For a brief but terrifying moment," observed The Washington Post, "they appeared to be on the verge of a hug."
Washington hadn't see anything like it since Jack Kemp tried to play kissy-face with Al Gore in the vice-presidential debate in '96.