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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Not so wise and wonderful at the White House

The White House Christmas theme is "All Things Bright and Beautiful." Sadly, it's not "All Things Wise and Wonderful."

Condoleezza Rice is trying, without much success, to convince Europeans that the United States does not torture terrorist suspects.

The White House is still refusing to go along with international efforts to organize a strategy to deal with climate change.

At the administration's insistence, the problems with the overzealous Patriot Act are being swept under the rug.

The White House ignores the members of the 9/11 commission who concluded the country is still not as safe as it should or could be, four years after the United States was attacked, because security is still not a top priority.

At the 1,000-day mark of war in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney defends the war with the strange logic that otherwise there will be a radical Islamic empire stretching from Spain to Indonesia.

President Bush, who has never vetoed anything passed by Congress, no matter how expensive or worthless, says that more tax cuts won't increase the $331 billion annual deficit.

Victims of the year's deadly hurricanes still wait for the administration to make sense of unbelievably petty and silly regulations.

The administration asks seniors to be patient or "go online" as they wait for help in trying to figure out the complexities of the new prescription drug law by the legal sign-up date of May 15.

Instead of distancing the administration from the troubles of Tom DeLay, the former majority leader of the House indicted on ethics charges, Mr. Cheney helps raise money for him.

The economy is booming, say the members of the Bush economic team, at the same time as record-high heating bills start filling the country's mailboxes.

Of course, of late, the Democrats have not done anything to deserve much respect either. Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut admired for bipartisanship, says that the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, has told Democrats not to co-sponsor legislation with him because he's been targeted for defeat next year.

Democrats have no cohesiveness on the war in Iraq, no coherent message on energy or the deficit, and no inspiration for jaded voters tired of five years of squabbling in Washington.

Some think it's looking as though the 2008 presidential contest could end up as a match between Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), although in politics nothing is ever a sure thing.

Some think that would be a clash of two titans, with Americans better off for hearing the views of two articulate "moderates," which is how millions of Americans think of themselves - moderates.

Others watch as both of these clearly ambitious politicians maneuver around their positions on the issues of the day and think it could be the "same old, same old."

The dreary situation in Washington right now makes one realize how a truly charismatic, take-charge, forceful person with bold ideas can mesmerize a society - for good and for evil.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the video of the month is playing on its Web site (www.whitehouse.gov). It's a morality tale of Barney, Mr. Bush's dog, and Miss Beazley, the first family's new pup about to spend her first Christmas at the White House. It features the President talking to the brother and sister in the Oval Office about sibling rivalry and the need to get along.

The slickly done 10-minute video also features chief of staff Andy Card, Treasury Secretary John Snow, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Lynn Cheney, and First Lady Laura Bush. ("A Very Beazley Christmas" can be accessed under the section on "progress in Iraq.")

After Barney hides Miss Beazley's presents, Miss Beazley becomes, as the President disapprovingly says, a "media hound."

"Both of you are an important part of our family," Mr. Bush admonishes, "and you have to remember the true meaning of the holiday season."

The two siblings scamper through the White House playing. They "give" each other gifts, as the First Lady says she's glad they're in the holiday spirit and adds, "President Bush and I wish everyone a very happy holiday."

In more proof that no good deed goes unpunished, that upset religious conservatives. They are angry, not that the President is talking to dogs instead of using his bully pulpit to urge Democrats and Republicans to get along, but that the White House Christmas card of a snowy White House is non-religious this year and doesn't wish people "Merry Christmas."

Ah well, All Things Great and Small.



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