Ever the charmer, George II cracked wise at his own expense during a
recent Yale commencement speech.
After congratulating honors graduates, Bush consoled "C students" that they, too, could aspire to become president.
Some found the president's wit more arrogant than
funny. Either way, by the end of the week, the joke was on him.
No, you don't have to be a genius to be a successful politician. But it helps to be able to count; for instance, 50 GOP senators minus one equals 49.
Some local pundits thought Democrats were childish to object when the Supreme Court made Bush president by a 5-4 vote. Now they think it's just not fair that a single vote can alter the leadership of the U.S. Senate.
Another set of figures to keep in mind is 66 percent
vs. 45 percent. The first is the proportion of the Vermont vote won by
Sen. James Jeffords in his most recent campaign. The second is what Bush
earned there during the 2000 presidential contest. The 21-point difference
is a landslide by anybody's definition.
Upon being inaugurated, Bush, despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore by 536,000 votes, took off his "compassionate conservative" disguise, moved sharply to the right and tried to govern as if he'd won a sweeping mandate.
Then when Jeffords couldn't support every aspect
of Bush's save-the-rich tax cut plan, the White House treated him like
some hopeless dork trying to pledge the Deke fraternity: trashing him to
reporters; cutting special education funding and New England dairy price
supports he'd sought; and excluding him from a ceremony honoring the national
teacher of the year, who hailed from his small, wonderful state.
They basically tried to bully Jeffords into voting as if he represented Texas, not Vermont. Worse, they bragged about it. Stung, Jeffords decided to put his constituents' wishes above party loyalty. A moderate Republican who'd stayed through Reagan and Gingrich, he couldn't abide George W.
All of a sudden many in Washington started saying
what's been obvious all along: that despite his carefully crafted image
as what New York Daily News columnist Michael Kramer called "Ultimate Nice
Guy," the real George II is a bully.
"[T]hose who know Bush best know how mean he can be," Kramer writes. "The President harbors grudges, perceives slights even when there's scant evidence for them and . . . positively relishes getting even."
Ironically, one big winner in last week's debacle was our old pal Ted Olson. With control of the Senate, Democrats can prevent Bush from giving lifetime appointments in the federal courts to right-wing extremists, so they let him have a vote on his solicitor general. Olson squeaked through 51-47. Yet within hours of his confirmation came more evidence about Olson's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he denied any knowledge of the American Spectator's infamous $2.4 million Arkansas Project prior to 1997.
First the Los Angeles Times reported that documents
showed that Olson had billed Arkansas embezzler and Whitewater con man
David Hale $140,000 for his services, far more than was previously known.
What did he do for all that money? It was Hale's allegations against Bill
Clinton, of course, that resulted in an independent counsel's being appointed.
Who paid Olson's fees? During the 1996 trial of then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Jim and Susan McDougal, Hale testified that he'd paid Olson out of his own pocket.
Only a couple of hours after Olson's confirmation,
Salon published an extraordinary open letter by one Ralph J. "Bud" Lemley.
Lemley is a close friend and adviser to former American Spectator publisher
Ron Burr, whose firing he says Olson helped engineer after Burr demanded
a "fraud audit" of the Arkansas Project for fear it violated laws prohibiting
non-profit foundations from partisan activities.
Lemley says that Burr told him that Olson's "agreement in the winter of 1993-1994 to represent David Hale was a cornerstone of the [Arkansas] project" from the very beginning.
As I've written here, Olson's law partner wrote me
a few months ago asserting that my account of the 1993 meeting where this
agreement took place was "factually incorrect." Olson told the Senate he
recalled no such gathering.
But now we are told by the indefatigable Murray Waas in the American Prospect that in 1998 Olson had given a more forthcoming account of the event to Michael Shaheen, then probing the Arkansas Project on behalf of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Shaheen concluded that "There is certainly reason to believe that Olson took on Hale as a 'paying' client
with no real expectation that he (or his firm) would ever be paid."
The words are those of the "Shaheen report," which Starr kept under seal until the Senate released redacted portions last week. Now it's obvious why Starr hid it. True, Shaheen concluded that there was little evidence to show that Olson and the rest of the Arkansas Project gang had any "intent to corruptly influence Hale's testimony." Of course not. Hale conned them the way he conned just about everybody else who ever trusted him. Instead, Shaheen concluded that Olson offered what amounted to " 'free' legal services because he viewed the client as a thorn in the side of a political foe."
Ancient history? Maybe to Senate Democrats, but not
to Tucker, who filed a motion last year to have his Whitewater conviction
set aside on precisely those grounds: that Starr's prosecutors hid Hale's
Arkansas Project ties for the same reason they went after Tucker in the
first place--to conceal their star witness' role in a well-funded dirty-tricks
campaign involving Olson whose ultimate goal was the ruination of Bill
and Hillary Clinton.