Jewish World Review July 21, 2006/ 25 Tamuz, 5766

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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The grousing begins about what's next | If news of the Hezbollah assault on Israel isn't misery enough, there's plenty of news of the assault by the pols on the sensibilities of the body politic. There are only 837 days left before Nov. 4, 2008.

For the true aficionados, for whom there aren't enough hours to count the ways to love the likes of Joe Biden, Mark Warner, John McCain, George Allen or Mitt Romney, that comes out to 20,088 hours and 1,205,280 minutes. (Suckers are said to be born in every one of those minutes.)

And of course there's Hillary. Yesterday she disclosed itemized donations to her campaign — so far it's only a campaign for her re-election to the U.S. Senate — and it runs to 4,000 pages of bad news for everybody else. She has raised $5.7 million in this election cycle, bringing the total swag for the campaign to $43 million. That's more than Bubba collected for his pardons.

Even the lesser lights are tuning up jalopies they hope to push onto the track for the big race. Mike Huckabee, the governor of Arkansas and a one-time Southern Baptist pastor who might be credible evangelical Christian ballast for a certain Mormon presidential campaign, showed his hipness last week with a pardon for Keith Richards, the guitar picker for the Rolling Stones who was fined for reckless driving in a small town in Arkansas more than a decade ago. It's not clear whether Richards even asked for it — he won't get his $142 back — but the governor, who sometimes plays rhythm guitar in a pickup band, met him backstage at a recent concert, and swooned.

Hollywood is swooning for Hillary, and some of the swag she has collected for the Senate re-election campaign — first things first — comes from the celluloid celebrities who don't understand much about what goes on in Washington but yearn to be part of it. Bette Midler, Chris Rock, Owen Wilson, James Caan, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lopez all kicked in a few thou each. It's not the size of the gift, but the thought that counts. No word yet on whether Barbra Streisand has come across for Hillary as she often did for Bubba.

So far Miss Hillary has not used any of the swag for visible evidence of a presidential campaign; she has screened no clever television commercials, for example. But she has spent more than $200,000 on postage for the direct-mail campaign by a direct-mail company that she has paid $650,000 so far. The financial reports revealed what her campaign calls an embarrassing boo-boo, vouchers for two motel bills for campaign aides in Des Moines, the site of the Iowa caucuses in early '08. A campaign spokesman said the vouchers should have reflected payment for motel bills in Albany, N.Y., and Austin, Texas. The errors will be "corrected." It was a natural mistake; a lot of people wake up in Austin and think they're in Albany.

Even George W., who can't ever again run for anything really important, is catching campaign fever. He addressed the NAACP yesterday, winning applause only for his self-abasing lines. He won the loudest applause when he observed that blacks rarely vote for Republicans, and his invocation of Abraham Lincoln was a dud, unlike the shot and shell that devastated Savannah in Sherman's Christmas bombing of 1864.

Gratitude is never the currency of politics, of course, and John Thune, who took out Tom Daschle in South Dakota two years ago with George W.'s help, returned thanks yesterday with a speech telling the president to get lost. "If I were running in the state this year," he told reporters at the National Press Club, lapsing into the passive voice so beloved by pols on the run, "you obviously don't embrace the president and his agenda. The first thing I'd do is acknowledge that there have been mistakes made. Our candidates have to draw and point out differences in how they would approach and win the war in Iraq . ... The biggest thing we have going for us on that issue is that Democrats are very divided."

Which brings us back to Hillary. The biggest obstacle between Lady Macbeth of Little Rock and a return to the White House may be the croakers, the miserables and malcontents in her own party, who won't forgive her outbursts of patriotism. Well, it's a long way to Tipperary, with only 72,316,800 seconds to go. But who's counting?

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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