Dispatches > The Buzz

The buzz

Issue: "Reagan: Providential president," Feb. 7, 2004

Politics Exit polls from New Hampshire following Sen. John Kerry's convincing victory there last week (story, p. 18) show that the Massachusetts senator benefited heavily from voters who cast their ballots strategically, with defeat of President Bush in November more important than compatibility on the issues. Of those voters who chose a candidate on the basis of his "electability," Sen. Kerry garnered 56 percent support. Sen. Kerry also outpolled former front-runner Howard Dean among voters long believed to be squarely in the corner of the former Vermont governor: Among voters who are "angry" with the Bush administration, Sen. Kerry picked up 37 percent to Dr. Dean's 35 percent.

BUSH AND IRAQ The CIA named Charles A. Duelfer to replace departing U.S. weapons inspector David Kay in Iraq. After six months on the job, Mr. Kay announced his resignation on Jan. 23 and told reporters he was "personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. Last week, he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and denied suggestions by Democrats that intelligence analysts felt pressured by the administration to shape intelligence to help President Bush make the case for war. He said he spoke to many analysts who prepared the intelligence and "not in a single case was the explanation that I was pressured to this."

Seeking cover from election-year embarrassment, the Bush administration signaled a shift from hunting for WMD stockpiles to a more cerebral task: finding out when and how stockpiles were destroyed. But at least one former UN weapons inspector contends that the Bush inspections team is papering over the reality of Iraq's WMD, a lethal and active arsenal whose components were not destroyed but likely transferred to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley (story, p. 20).

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BLAIR AND IRAQ While Bush opponents will use WMD findings, or lack of them, to throttle the president's reelection campaign, opponents of British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London saw a similar assault tactic backfire. A long-awaited government investigation has concluded that Prime Minister Tony Blair did not "sex up," or purposely exaggerate, a report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the war.

Those charges launched a scandal involving the BBC, Mr. Blair, his Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon, and David Kelly, a government scientist and former UN weapons inspector. Distraught over media coverage suggesting he disagreed with Mr. Blair's position and served as an unnamed source for BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, Mr. Kelly committed suicide last year. The final investigation, led by Lord Hutton, found it was the BBC who "sexed up" its coverage of dissension within the government over Mr. Blair's pro-war policy. Hours after the report's release on Jan. 28, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies resigned.

Federal spending The federal budget picture has worsened by a factor of nearly $1 trillion in less than six months. The Congressional Budget Office projected nearly $2.4 trillion in deficits over the next decade. Congress' nonpartisan fiscal watchdog also said this year's deficit would hit $477 billion, a record in dollar terms, but it did envision

that figure dropping to $362 billion next year and receding thereafter.

Democrats, naturally, were critical of the president, but so were conservatives. "These budget deficits as far as the eye can see are the predictable result of a president and Congress spending taxpayer dollars with reckless abandon," said Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation.

The president's Fiscal 2005 budget has as a goal halving deficits by 2009. Conservatives, who have been rebelling openly for weeks over the growth of spending and deficits on Mr. Bush's watch, said his proposals for corrective action were too timid. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said he and other conservatives were working on a budget that would balance in five years and be even more stringent on spending, perhaps cutting programs that Congress controls: "I think Congress can do better, and I think we should make it our purpose to present a bolder fiscal vision than the administration will put forward."

MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME The inventor and first practitioner of late-night television talk, Jack Paar, died on Jan. 27 after a long illness; he leaves behind daughter Randy and his wife of more than 60 years, Miriam. NBC's "Tonight Show" under Jack Paar was a far cry from the fare served up today. He took over NBC's flagging late-night slot in July 1957, some months after Steve Allen left with his variety show. Even youngsters sent to bed before Paar's show parroted his catch phrase, "I kid you not," with which he regularly certified his flow of self-revealing stories. Paar walked away from TV at age 47, which mystified his fans. He offered the explanation that he was tired and ready to do other things, and he stayed true to his word, other than a brief return in 1975 as one of several hosts on a rotating late-night roster at ABC. Entertainers Paar championed and helped launch included Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, Woody Allen, and Bill Cosby. Paar's circle of guests also included leading politicians, including Richard Nixon, who played the piano. During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy made a triumphant appearance-so much so that a few days after the election, Paar received a letter from Joseph P. Kennedy, the proud father, gushing, "I don't know anybody who did more, indirectly, to have Jack elected than your own good self" (other obituaries, p. 22).

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