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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Ethan Wallison

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Ethan Wallison

Last Build Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2006 08:20:30 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

The Nancy I Knew

Wed, 29 Nov 2006 08:20:30 -0600

Impressive ruthlessness, by my lights. But I suspect Pelosi would never acknowledge the duplicity. She was just as committed to the appearance of pristine righteousness as she was to her own political success, and assumed she could have both. The machinations of 1999 are a case in point. Faced with the complaints about unnecessary "distractions" - complaints she could easily have dismissed - she instead argued that it was not she who put the contest in motion, as her rivals contended. If that was true, the race began itself. Her vanity kept uneasy company with her sense of propriety, which was situational, and her sometimes inept political operation. At one point, it seems to have occurred to Pelosi and her associates that she could double the amount of money she raised - and thus double the amount she gave - if she opened a second political action committee. It never seems to have occurred to the group that, as a matter of law, this was preposterous. If one could double-up by simply opening another committee, why not ten committees? Or one hundred? Pelosi appears not to have had anyone at the time who could point out the obvious to her. So her machine, based in San Francisco, went ahead with the plan, opening a second PAC that was identical to the first in all but name. And soon that committee was taking and giving money in the usual order. The treasurer of both, former California Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, told me he had phoned the Federal Elections Commission beforehand and was told there was nothing wrong with the arrangement - a dubious story, since not even the commissioners are permitted to provide legal guidance over the phone. The FEC eventually fined Pelosi's original PAC $24,000 for the screw-up. Her committee was also forced to retrieve all the illegal money that had been given to candidates and to reimburse its donors. I doubt that Pelosi's predecessor, Dick Gephardt, read much of his press, or took the criticisms to heart - political leaders have to be prepared to weather a certain volume of attacks that are genuinely unfair and uninformed, let alone those that are salient. Pelosi was not. Because her intentions were always pure, she assumed that "negative" coverage was driven by malice. On one occasion, she complained bitterly about a blind quote I had included in an earlier article about her campaign committee. Basically the committee had failed to file reports for two straight quarters, and the person quoted - an aide to a political rival - had suggested that perhaps this "oversight" was in fact intentional, since it enabled Pelosi to hide her spending from the opposition. Fairly standard stuff, the kind of lame innuendo that passes for politics in Washington every day. And in truth, it was no different from what Pelosi would herself have suggested of an adversary who had run afoul of the campaign finance rules. But Pelosi felt that her honesty was being questioned - and not so much by the person who was quoted, but by the person who included the quote in the article (which, by the way, was buried by the editors). This turned into an accusation that I was in bed with her rival Steny Hoyer. In a final flourish, Pelosi noted I was "still very young" and had a "long career ahead" of me and would certainly "grow" as time passes, but unfortunately this would all have to occur without the access that I might have enjoyed if I weren't such a jerk. Yes, the tone was more one of pity than of anger. Did I mention that she could be a wee bit condescending at times? She nursed grudges with intensity, but could be bountiful in rewarding allies. When she became leader, she pushed through the appointment of Max Sandlin to the Appropriations Committee. Sandlin, a moderate Texan, was a sensible choice, since he had been stung by redistricting and the slot would raise his profile and appeal. He was also among Pelosi's most valuable supporters, since he helped her to deflate claims that her appeal was limited to the political Left. But Sandlin hadn't asked for a seat on Appropriations - he had requested the Ways and Means C[...]

Ukraine's Orange Bust

Fri, 21 Jul 2006 08:35:24 -0600

Once the embodiment of Ukraine's hopes for prestige and modernization, Yushchenko has turned inward and insolent in his year-and-a-half as president. The warning signs were apparent early in his administration. Wary of Tymoshenko, he moved a top ally into the role of state security chief in order to balance out her power. The ensuing clash of wills dominated the first nine months of his presidency, ending only when Yushchenko accepted the resignation of the security adviser, Petro Poroshenko, and dissolved Tymoshenko's government. By this point, Yushchenko was already exhibiting an unhealthy fixation on enemies - not an unusual trait among leaders in this region, but also not quite the spirit of "Maidan," as the Orange protests are widely known in Ukraine. In mid-summer last year he hinted darkly that opponents in the state secret service were behind reports about the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by his 19-year-old son, Andriy. In truth, Andriy's pampering was no less than the ordinary Ukrainian expects from a scion of the elite; it was the news coverage of it that was so unusual, in a country where fear once (in fact, quite recently) controlled the media. Yushchenko botched an excellent teaching moment about the democratic values he often extols. All of Yushchenko's flaws and failures might have been forgivable were it not for his handling of the coalition talks. Having been pummeled in the March parliamentary elections by both Yanukovich and Tymoshenko, Yushchenko nevertheless struck a defiant stance. He and his aides dragged their heels throughout the negotiations, evidently in the hope that, facing a parliament deadline for organizing the new government, Tymoshenko and her forces would accept something less than her reappointment as prime minister. No such luck. So in an act of jaw-dropping petulance, Yushchenko accepted her reappointment - on the condition that Poroshenko be made Speaker of the Rada. As if adopting the lioness meant adopting the lion-tamer. Beyond the plain cynicism of this move, it also revealed that Yushchenko had no idea how far Ukraine has traveled since the Orange Revolution. His countrymen no longer view him as the heroic figure atop the stage in the orange scarf, but rather as an inept and somewhat beleaguered administrator who is perhaps in over his head. His party's 14 percent at the polls in the recent round of elections should have been a clue to that. Yet now he was reassembling the same inevitable mess he created when he first came to office, as if his position had strengthened over time. Even if the ploy had succeeded, it sent an awful message to weary Ukrainians who lost their faith in Yushchenko during the first period of infighting. Tymoshenko ought to accept her own share of the blame for the troubles. (There's plenty of blame for everyone, natch.) As the figure-head of her eponymous party, she stressed the need to root out corruption in government during the campaign season. Which is all well and good, since Ukraine continues to struggle mightily with the problem. Except that when Tymoshenko spoke of corruption, she cited not the faceless multitude that populates Ukraine's bureaucracy at every level, trolling for bribes, but rather the circle of advisers surrounding Yushchenko. This, in fact, was a continuation of the same quarrel that brought about the collapse of the first post-revolution government - a battle over who was using his or her office for personal aggrandizement. Coming in the wake of Tymoshenko's grandstanding on the crisis-averting gas agreement between Ukraine and Russia - she charged that the pact "sold out" Ukraine - her attacks during the campaign were especially unhelpful, not to say short-sighted. They alienated the very same people she would need to deal with after the elections. (On the other hand, Tymoshenko's appeal comes from her fiery manner and willingness to attack the powerful. A strong case could be made that her party would have failed to muster its 25 percent in the parliamentary balloting if she had held back.) Moroz w[...]