Wash. Post reported Bush's "opening message since the election has been one of conciliation," ignored partisan maneuvering

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker wrote that President Bush's "opening message since the election has been one of conciliation." But Baker did not mention Bush's renomination of several controversial candidates for high-ranking offices, nor did he note Bush's push for legislation authorizing warrantless domestic wiretapping.

In a November 27 article on President Bush's prospects of "recover[ing]" from the "thrashing" he received on Election Day, Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker wrote that "Bush's opening message since the election has been one of conciliation," noting that Bush "fir[ed] Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld" and "reach[ed] out to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ([D-]Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ([D-]Nev.)." Baker further noted that Bush "may wait for the right moment to take on Democrats." Baker made no mention, however, of Bush's renomination of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, whose first nomination failed as a result of bipartisan opposition. Nor did Baker note Bush's renomination of several federal judicial candidates who have been opposed by Senate Democrats. He also omitted Bush's call for the lame-duck Congress to pass legislation authorizing warrantless domestic wiretapping. And he did not note Bush's appointment of a doctor who opposes abortion rights and access to contraception as head of the federal family planning office -- actions characterized by his own paper and a New York Times article as "provocative," and by a Post columnist as "a series of face slaps."

Baker wrote:

Bush's opening message since the election has been one of conciliation, in firing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, as many critics had urged, and in reaching out to incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.). "Let's let the election go," White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove said in a recent interview. "Let's say, 'Okay, where are some places where we can work together?' "

At the same time, Bush may wait for the right moment to take on Democrats. He has issued only one veto in six years in office but would be eager to veto Democratic spending bills. "The question is if they want to test him on the veto," said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy. "If I were them, I wouldn't. If they're trying to present themselves as the party of fiscal discipline," it would be a mistake to let a spending bill be vetoed.

On November 17, Post staff writer Christopher Lee reported on Bush's appointment of Eric Keroack as head of the Office of Population Affairs, writing: "The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as 'demeaning to women.' " Lee continued:

The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, was the latest provocative personnel move by the White House since Democrats won control of Congress in this month's midterm elections. President Bush last week pushed the Senate to confirm John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and this week renominated six candidates for appellate court judgeships who have previously been blocked by lawmakers. Democrats said the moves belie Bush's post-election promises of bipartisanship.

New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg's November 27 "White House Memo" noted that Bush is not waiting, as Baker put it, "for the right moment to take on Democrats" -- he has already done it. According to Rutenberg's article:

If anything, Democrats have taken Mr. Bush's first moves since this month's election as more provocative than conciliatory. He plans to use the lame-duck Republican Congress to push domestic wiretapping legislation that Democrats overwhelmingly oppose; he is pushing for the confirmation of his ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, whose continued service most Democrats, not to mention some Republicans, oppose; and he has resubmitted the names of several conservative justices for the federal bench whom Democrats have rejected once already.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, in a November 22 column, noted:

In the few weeks since the election, the president has followed up his syrupy rhetoric of cooperation with a series of face slaps: pushing the doomed nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, resubmitting the equally doomed nominations of a quartet of offensive judicial selections and naming a physician to head the federal family planning program who works for clinics that refuse to offer birth control.

Marcus also noted Bush's choice to "refer[] to the opposition as the 'Democrat Party' " -- which she labeled "derisive" -- rather than by its name, the Democratic Party. As Media Matters has noted, the use of the noun "Democrat" as an adjective originated with Republican partisans, presumably an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being "democratic" -- or, in the words of New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg, "to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation."

A November 16 New York Times article explained why four of the six judicial nominees Bush renominated have drawn opposition from congressional Democrats:

The four nominees whose chances of confirmation are viewed as nearly impossible are: William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon's general counsel who was involved in setting many of the interrogation policies for detainees; William G. Myers III, a longtime lobbyist for the mining and ranching industries and a critic of environmental regulations; Terrence W. Boyle [noted by Media Matters here], a district court judge in North Carolina; and Michael B. Wallace of Mississippi, a lawyer rated unqualified for the court by the American Bar Association.

The other nominees, who have not aroused as much opposition, are N. Randy Smith, a district judge in Idaho, and Peter D. Keisler, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Justice Department.

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