Three men and a party.

Three men and a party.

Three men and a party.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 6 2005 11:43 AM

Three Men and a Party

At last, Democrats get a clue.

80_thehasbeen

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005

Triple Play: If you asked my fellow Democrats in Washington to name the three best things that have happened to their party in the past month, most would say: 1) Tom DeLay's indictment; 2) the conservative crackup over Harriet Miers; and 3) yesterday's indictment of ex-White House aide and Abramoff pal David Safavian, coupled with swirling rumors that much bigger fish will soon be indicted in the Plame case.

Wrong answers! All three highlights from the Republicans' Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week were great fun for my side to watch, but they merely give Democrats an opening. We can't indict our way back to the majority. The jury we have to convince is the American people.

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The best Democratic news this past week is that three of the party's rising stars showed that they are tired of a strategy that depends on the other side falling to pieces.

On Sunday, Tim Russert was gobsmacked to discover that when he asked his usual showstopper, "But what are the Democratic ideas?", Illinois congressman and ex-has-been Rahm Emanuel actually had an answer.

Rahm could have said, "Three things: Convict DeLay. Filibuster Miers. Stick pins in our voodoo dolls of George Bush and Karl Rove." Instead, he spelled out five real ideas: making college universal, demanding a budget summit, cutting energy dependence in half with a hybrid economy, creating a science and technology institute to rival NIH, and making health care universal over the next 10 years.

You might have your own ideas, but that's the point—when you listen to a Democrat with ideas, you don't fall into a deep funk or get hungry again half an hour later. (Full disclosure: Rahm Emanuel is my best friend in Congress, and next to him, I am his biggest promoter.)

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You're Hired: If you do have a new idea, Andy Stern and the Service Employees International Union just created a platform for it. This week, Stern launched a Web site called www.sinceslicedbread.com, which will host a nationwide competition over the next two months to find the best new idea to promote economic opportunity for ordinary people.

The winner will receive a prize of $100,000; two runners-up will win $50,000. In the past, Democrats only gave that kind of money to consultants who had no ideas. Now everybody has an incentive to solve the country's problems.

Wherever it leads, the competition itself is such a great idea that Fox and the other networks must be kicking themselves for not coming up with it. Real people going head to head in a cross between the Nobel Prize and American Idol. It's just what Democrats need: reality thinking.

As if a nationwide search for ideas weren't encouraging enough, it's especially intriguing that Stern and his union are behind it. When Gary Hart first whetted Democrats' appetite for new ideas 20 years ago, his argument was that traditional Democratic interests were the ones standing in the way.

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One key to Clinton's success in 1992 was persuading Democrats across the spectrum to be the party of change, not the status quo. Democrats can only win back a majority if they learn that lesson again, and Stern understands it better than anybody.

Truth Teller: Last Friday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., posted a brilliant essay on Daily Kos called "Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party." Obama used the split over John Roberts, whom he opposed, as an occasion to warn activists that hostility toward Democrats who don't always share their views is actually an impediment to a progressive majority.

Obama explains that "the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists"—that Democrats must grow a backbone, enforce Rove-like ideological purity, and polarize the electorate along our terms—plays right into Republicans' hands:

"Whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government."

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Obama points out that like litmus tests, arguments over "framing" and labels are beside the point. Instead of striving to be pure or predictable, Democrats need to be bold and unorthodox. That means being willing to "innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise," and giving voters the benefit of "a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter."

Ironically, the desire to be bold and unorthodox may once again be the best bond to unite the Democratic Party. Like most Americans, most Democrats are profoundly disappointed by the performance of both parties in Washington. Whatever differences we might have over tactics, young guns like Kos and Has-Been reformers like me share an abiding contempt for the status quo, and want Democrats to state boldly and clearly what we stand for and what we'll do for the country.

The Obama essay may be the most intelligent advice Democrats have been given in the Bush era. There's nothing wrong with the Democratic Party or the country that can't be turned around by an honest debate, a civil tone, and above all, a bold, unorthodox agenda.

Iconoclasts like Andy Stern, Rahm Emanuel, and Barack Obama are the future of the Democratic Party. If the party listens to them, Democrats will prosper even if none of our favorite Republican bogeymen ends up rotting in jail. ... 8:43 A.M. (link)

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Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005

Spellbound: Today's Washington Post devotes five pages to the Miers nomination, but if you're in a rush, just read these two sentences:

"As Bush's staff secretary, she was known to correct spelling, grammar and even punctuation errors in memos to the president. But she has no judicial experience and not much appellate experience."

Never mind experience—President Bush wants nominees who understand that Supreme Court Justices don't legislate, they punctuate.

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But wait—the president already put a stickler for spelling, grammar, and punctuation on the bench: John Roberts. At Hogan & Hartson, Roberts stuck clients with enormous bills by asking associates to rewrite briefs over and over until they were free of typographical and grammatical errors. In the Reagan administration, his snide memos mocked others' grammar. During his confirmation, he made sure journalists reported that as a youth, he never lost a local spelling bee.

In almost every respect, Miers would seem to be no John Roberts. But when it comes to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, Roberts may have met his match.

Will this shared obsession enable Roberts and Miers to bond on the bench—or is it more likely to cause a painful rift or even proofing gridlock? After waiting so long to change the Court, will the right wing's hopes be dashed by internecine dueling over the most elitist of concerns, proper punctuation?

We, the People: On matters of spelling, the Founders are little help, because they wrote the Constitution before many conventions of modern spelling took hold in the 1800s. Luckily, most spelling disputes can be resolved by simply looking in a dictionary.

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Strict constructionists have a much tougher time, however, resolving questions of grammar and punctuation. As the flawed but amusing runaway British bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves observed, the laws of grammar and punctuation aren't really laws at all. On the contrary, they're judgment calls subject to a great deal of interpretation—rather like most Supreme Court questions.

Worse still, from the conservative standpoint, the conventions of grammar, punctuation, and even spelling change over time, as social conventions change. To be sure, an effective grammarian who capitulates to the will of the people can do real harm. History would not remember Justice Brandeis fondly had he written in DiSanto v. Pennsylvania, "The logic of words should yield to, like, the logic of realities."

On the other hand, a stickler who holds onto conventions of punctuation the public no longer shares may leave the law less clear than he or she found it. Consider one of the great Constitutional mysteries, the 2nd Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Few sentences have done more to shape our current political landscape, and by extension, the current makeup of the Court. Yet you don't even have to be a Supreme Court Justice to see that the 2nd Amendment is largely a punctuation problem. Removing the first and third commas clears matters up quite a bit.

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Eats, Shoots & Clams: It's bad enough that John Roberts was confirmed without revealing his judicial philosophy. It's worse that all we know of Harriet Miers's views is this Post quote from her sometime beau, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan "She's a Terrible Cook" Hecht: "I know what her judicial philosophy will be, and when [conservatives] find out what this president knows about Harriet, they are going to be happy as clams."

But on top of everything else, now we have no earthly idea what their grammatical philosophies are, either.

Harriet Miers has never been a judge, and probably has no judicial philosophy. John Roberts may be hiding his, or may not have one himself.

By contrast, both Miers and Roberts obviously have strong views about grammar and punctuation. Those views will affect every sentence they write for the next 30-40 years. If they're both such sticklers, we have a right to know the philosophy behind their stickling.

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Where do they stand on the serial comma ("disappointed, depressed, and demoralized" or "disappointed, depressed and demoralized")? With respect to the third person indefinite pronoun, do women have equal rights ("every Justice knows his heart" or "every Justice knows his or her heart" or "every Justice knows her heart")?

Finally, how can Ms. Miers reconcile her alleged dedication to established rules of grammar with her decade-long dedication to one of the worst grammatical evildoers in American history?

The White House has an obligation to release every document that Harriet Miers has written, edited, or let go by without a mark. Conservatives are already dumbstruck that Bush didn't pick another Scalia. Harriet Miers will never survive if they find out she's no William Safire, either. ... 11:39 A.M. (link)

** Update: Former Supreme Court clerk, future Supreme Court Justice, and fluent English speaker Robert Gordon  reminds me that in her maiden speech yesterday, Miers got off to a rocky start in her bid to become Associate Grammarian:

"The wisdom of those who drafted our Constitution and conceived our nation as functioning with three strong and independent branches have proven truly remarkable."

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Chief Justice Roberts might allow the controversial use of "proven" in place of  the older and more established "proved," but any stickler who says "The wisdom ... have" listens too much to George W. Bush. Of course, in our obsession with grammatical correctness, we shouldn't miss the larger point: Even without the error in verb agreement, it would be a lousy sentence. ... 1:29 P.M.

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Monday, Oct. 3, 2005

Mustang Harriet: Move over, FEMA. President Bush has designated a new official dumping ground for hacks: the Supreme Court.

The president's nominee, Harriet Miers, will be far from the first hack on the court. In fact, the justice she is nominated to replace, Sandra Day O'Connor, is one of the leading hacks in court history.

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In terms of legal credentials, Miers is no John Roberts. She has never served on the bench. My guess is that she hasn't argued a case before the Supreme Court. She probably didn't even join the Latin club at SMU.

But Bush didn't pick Miers because of a nationwide search for legal talent. He picked her because she's the best lawyer within 100 feet of his office. So, the fair question to ask about Harriet Miers in the coming weeks is not how good a lawyer she is, but how good a hack?

Miers had some admirable firsts back in Texas. She may or may not be an impressive lawyer. But the Has-Been's uninformed view is that she's an uninspiring hack.

Who says George W. Bush can't be a uniter? Shortly after Bush nominated Miers, the left, right, and center joined in marveling at the underwhelming mediocrity of the choice.

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Trendsetter Bill Kristol says he's "disappointed, depressed, and demoralized," because "her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president." Right-wing loyalists at redstate.org are despondent over her campaign contributions to Democrats.

The White House will no doubt argue publicly that maxing out to Al Gore's presidential campaign in the 1988 primaries and the DNC for Dukakis-Bentsen in the 1988 general shows Miers' political independence. Privately, they'll tell conservatives she was just greasing palms for her firm.

I don't know her motives, but I want to personally thank Ms. Miers for her $1,000 contribution, which paid most of my salary on Gore's short-lived campaign. With her help, we finished third behind Dukakis and Jackson in Texas on Super Tuesday. In the general, Dukakis-Bentsen lost Texas by 700,000 votes.

In the 1996 primaries, Miers contributed the maximum to Phil Gramm's presidential bid. So, perhaps she can sell herself as a Bill Bennett conservative: She's not a closet Democrat, she's just a bad gambler.

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For her sake, let's hope that the "Mrs. Harris W. Miers, Sr." of Dallas, Texas, who gave $250 to the Clinton for President campaign in December 1991 is not Harriet's mother. That would spoil Miers' record of only backing Democrats who lose.

This morning, Harriet thanked her mother and her brother Harris, but I'll await official confirmation before sending the Miers family a thank-you for paying my salary in 1992 as well.

Note to freaked-out right-wingers: Surely not everyone who gave money to Al Gore, Mike Dukakis, and Bill Clinton was pro-choice.

Miers does have her defenders. "She's the kind of person you want in your corner when all the chips are being played," renowned Bush talent scout Joe Allbaugh told the New York Timeslast year. As Bill Bennett would say, "Hit me!"

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Loyalty is one of Bush's better traits, but today's announcement smacked more of sentimentality. He wanted to promote from within and reward a longtime supporter and loyal employee. He agreed with his wife Laura that he couldn't pick yet another white guy.

Those were both good instincts. Unfortunately, so far as we know, Joe Allbaugh didn't have any college roommates who were women. So, Bush picked Miers '67, who overlapped with Laura '68 at SMU. Even if she turns out to be qualified, the Miers nomination starts out looking like another inside deal from an administration that has made far too many.

The right wing has only itself to blame for Bush's choice. For the last six months, they have waged a bitter war against Bush's first White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, on the grounds that Gonzales was "Spanish for Souter."

Gonzales may have been a hack with suspect conservative credentials, but at least he would have been an inspiring and historic hack. Now the right is stuck with Miers, who may not even be "SMU for Gonzales." ... 9:56 A.M. (link)

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Friday, Sept. 30, 2005

Socker Mom: Fred Kaplan  is right—if our goal is to change America's image in the world, could there be a worse choice on earth than Karen Hughes? She has trouble getting along with Americans.

Karen Hughes is famous for message discipline. In the 2000 campaign, she coined the notorious slogan "Reformer with Results," which Bush slavishly repeated to overcome the real reformer in the race, John McCain.

But on her recent visit to the Middle East, the new undersecretary of public diplomacy mixed messages like a Foggy Bottom lifer. In Saudi Arabia, she stood up to the Saudis for not giving driver's licenses to women. The rest of the time, she tried to convince the Muslim world she was one of them, telling audiences over and over, "I am a mom and I love kids." As the Washington Post reports, she said in Ankara, "I love all kids. And that is something I have in common with the Turkish people—that they love children."

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Give Hughes credit for using her bully pulpit to stand up for the rights of women. But she should leave herself out of it. The job of persuading other countries to like America again is uphill enough without having to convince them to like Karen Hughes. As reporters from the Bush campaign plane might point out, in Turkey, the children don't run away screaming.

So far, that seems to be the initial reaction to Hughes's trip on the Arab street. The Hughes spin: They may be running away screaming, but they're not driving.

Red Light, Green Light: The Post runs a fascinating and creepy reaction from the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which says that in the Arab world, the U.S. "resembles a woman of ill repute whom everyone wants to court, but only in secret." I have no idea what that means, but it doesn't sound like progress. They say America is a woman of ill repute. Hughes says America is a mom who loves kids and has a driver's license.

In interviews, Hughes sounds baffled why the president doesn't have higher ratings in the Arab world. Perhaps Americans and Arabs have more in common than we thought.

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Hughes didn't make much headway this time, but she's determined to deliver a clearer message next trip. She's already come up with the new slogan: "Invader with Results."

Hanging Chavs: Hughes may not succeed in changing America's image, but the New York Times is determined to change the image of the Arab world. In a charming story about Britain's "Lotto Lout," a 22-year-old bad boy who has been to court 30 times since winning $15 million in the lottery, the Times introduces a new breed of drunk, rowdy Brits called chavs.

According to the Times, several celebrities fit the made-for-tabloid chav profile, including soccer star David Beckham, his Spice Girl wife Victoria, and "Jordan, a former topless model who recently traveled to her own wedding in a Cinderella-style carriage shaped like a pumpkin and pulled by six white horses."

Slate is a family publication—like you, we love children!—so naturally, I was surprised to see the Times online edition provide a hyperlink for a topless model. That might be enough to change Mickey Kaus' mind about TimesSelect.

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But when I clicked on the link, there were no topless photos of Cinderella. There wasn't even an overpriced archive with Times stories on Jordan's engagement and wedding. Instead, the Times link brought me to  this index of articles about Jordan, the country.

Look what Karen Hughes, master of press relations, has already accomplished in her short time on the job: The Arab press thinks the United States is a woman of ill repute. The American press thinks the nation of Jordan is a topless model.

The hapless Times and the topless Jordan might want to consult the Web site Islam for Today, which devotes an entire page (with pictures) to the model's bad-girl exploits. "It is easy when faced with such a scenario for a Muslim to launch into a tirade about jahiliya and the evils of Western society," the site warns but counsels forgiveness and relief. "A Muslim woman need not suffer low self esteem and obsess about the contours of her body thanks to the Islamic requirement to wear modest, loose-fitting clothing leaving only the face and hands uncovered."

That gives Hughes another way to bond with the Muslim world on her next trip: "I am a mom and I love kids—and I'm not topless." ...10:46 A.M. (link)

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Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005

Et Tu, Eleanor?: It's too late now, but in her liberal advice column for Newsweek, Eleanor Clift makes the case for why John Roberts is the best a left-wing partisan could hope for. Her argument: "Roberts is a bland careerist with a fine legal mind whose heart may not be as big as his head," but he's the best bigheaded, heart-two-sizes-too-small bland careerist out there.

Clift goes on to predict that in 10 years, Roberts will grow bored with the court and follow in Charles Evans Hughes' footsteps by running for president. Her source: the musings of former NBC Washington bureau chief Sid Davis. Not exactly Deep Throat, but he's the best bland source a left-wing partisan could hope for.

At first glance, the prospect that Roberts will use the court as a launching pad to the White House might seem a strange way to persuade Democrats to support his nomination. It's hard to imagine Chuck Schumer rushing to the Senate floor to inform his colleagues, "On second thought, while I still have no idea what kind of Chief Justice John Roberts will be, I have decided to support his nomination in hopes that he might one day leave the court and run for president."

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Then again, maybe that's a reason Democrats should all have voted to confirm Roberts. With Bill Frist's candidacy in trouble, we can't count on the Republicans to produce a generation of bland careerists for us to run against.

Another reason to hope Clift is right: If Roberts has presidential ambitions, he might turn out to be a much better chief justice. The biggest whopper in Roberts's Supreme Court campaign was his claim that the court has nothing to do with politics, as long as justices reread the Constitution long enough.

In truth, even judicially restrained justices have to cast up-or-down votes, often on issues for which precedent and the Constitution provide little guidance. The robe can't hide the fact that because of the power the Constitution gives the judicial branch, it's a political job with political consequences.

Bland Leading the Bland: If the Supreme Court is just his latest bland career ladder, Chief Justice Roberts may keep his word not to rock the boat. Even his young clerk consultants will know enough to warn Roberts that overturning Roe v. Wade would doom him in the general.

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Unfortunately, just as we know so little about what kind of justice Roberts will be, we have no idea what kind of presidential candidate he'll be, either. His memos from the Reagan days suggest that he might run the wrong way: as the best bland careerist right-wing partisans could hope for.

That's a dangerous temptation for a calculating young chief justice. The Republican primaries would be a cakewalk for a candidate who can modestly say, "For years, politicians gave speeches promising you they'd do away with Roe v. Wade. I'm the one who got the job done."

Either way, it's worth pumping up Roberts' presidential ambitions, just to picture his candidacy. He'll have to pick a slogan: "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!" or "E Pluribus Unum." He'll need a gimmick for his stump speech: Bob Dole's old trick of pulling out the 10th Amendment, or a Bush-like, "I raise my right hand and promise never to be an activist president, because chief executives don't legislate, they execute."

Best of all, imagine candidate Roberts in the debates: "It would be inappropriate for me to answer your question on that topic, or any other issue that might come before me as president." It's a shame Peter Sellers won't be alive to see it. ...  10:09 A.M. (link)

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Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005

Leader Leave: Any propeller head can call for an immediate, mandatory evacuation of Congress. It took a grand jury in Texas to figure out how to make it stick.

If Washington were the kind of town that took delight in other's troubles, the celebration over Tom DeLay's indictment would show the country that Mardi Gras is back. Democrats now have the perfect poster child for the Golden Age of political corruption. The press corps has a scandal that can lead the front page for months.

Even other villains have reason to smile again. Jack Abramoff can sing to his heart's content. On Letterman and Leno, Michael Brown can yield the balance of his time to the distinguished gentleman from Texas.

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The Republican establishment is sure to attack the grand jury as politically motivated. As the Moose next door points out, that's rich with irony.

More important, it's a mistake. If House Republicans are smart, they'll offer up their dearly departed Majority Leader as the first trophy of Operation Offset.

Republicans of every stripe should be thrilled to see him go. DeLay has consistently betrayed the fiscal conservatives with his penchant for pork. He betrayed the libertarians and the states-rights crowd by trying to send federal troops to save Terri Schiavo. He betrayed the anti-Washington wing by going native and selling his caucus's soul to the highest bidder.

DeLay is counting on the base to save him, but outside Washington, there can't be much of a base left for a corrupt, big-spending, Congress-as-usual leader.

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Reform Party: While Republicans should be celebrating, Democrats need to keep their eyes on the prize, which isn't getting rid of DeLay, but getting rid of DeLayism. Gingrich didn't take back the Congress by bringing down Jim Wright. He led Republicans to victory by making the broader case that Washington was broken, and in desperate need of reform.

Gingrich was right that the political system is broken. But Tom DeLay's troubles won't bring Democrats any lasting joy until we show Americans how we'll deliver on the promise of reform. That means closing the revolving door,  cleaning out the hacks, and giving up the pork.

It's not enough to swat the bugs away. This time, we have to drain the swamp.  ... 1:38 P.M. (link)

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Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005

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Vicious and Unprovoked Attacks: Mickey Kaus spent the past week on my case for half a sentence chiding the administration over using Katrina to advance conservative hobby-horses like suspending prevailing wage laws. The truth is, most conservatives got bored and fell off that horse a long time ago. But as longtime Kausphiles know, Mickey has never been one to look a gift hobby-horse in the mouth.

My point actually had nothing to do with prevailing wage laws or the morass of government procurement. In a detailed rebuttal to Mickey, Matthew Yglesias spoke for most people on both sides of that debate when he refreshingly admitted, "I don't really know anything about it."

My beef is with the President's reflexive willingness to call out the hobby-horse cavalry in time of crisis. The nation has two imperatives in a crisis: first, stop the bleeding, and second, learn the right lessons from the experience.

A parade of hobby-horses from left, right, and center only tramples on both imperatives. For the past five years, this administration has honed what was already one of Washington's greatest skills: the ability to use dramatic changes as an excuse to follow exactly the same course it was on before.

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A leader's job in a crisis is to rise above blind, reflexive, impenetrable debates that are a luxury even in calmer times. The Bush administration didn't waive prevailing wage law because they wanted to save the government some money. On the contrary, they can't write blank checks fast enough. They waived it because a group of conservative members of Congress saw a convenient opening to drive liberal members crazy.

Something Borrowed: It's not even a new reflex: Bush's father waived the law indefinitely after Hurricane Andrew in Florida. In Mississippi and Louisiana, the percentage of union workers is so small that the prevailing wages are non-union.

Republicans attack the law as a vestige of the New Deal; Democrats defend it for the same reason. Some wouldn't know what to do if they found out that the 1931 law was actually written by a three-time Republican Secretary of Labor and signed by Herbert Hoover in response to fears about immigrant wages during the Great Depression. So much for the last conservative war on poverty.

Mickey Kaus is against prevailing wages because he wants a massive public jobs program, and thinks he can't sell it at that price. Matt Yglesias is for prevailing wages because he wants a strong labor movement, and thinks he can't have it without prevailing wage laws. The trouble for them both is that winning the argument over prevailing wages won't do much to help them get what they're really after. And like many debates in Washington, this is an argument that will never be won.

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In the wake of an historic crisis like Katrina, the nation deserves new debates, not old ones. Rampant unionism in Louisiana and Mississippi seems lower on that list than the rampant incompetence in Washington and rampant poverty in New Orleans that the nation watched on television.

The Work Society: Three cheers to those on both sides, like John Edwards and Jack Kemp, who want to force a new debate on work and poverty. If the political world could suspend its reflexes long enough to learn something, Katrina offers ideal conditions for a genuine national consensus around a vision that John Edwards and Mickey Kaus share: that the best way to change the conditions and culture of poverty is to make work the central organizing principle of social policy.

Like Jacob Weisberg, I would love to see a full-fledged conservative war on poverty. This President has been a rich man's LBJ – his view of policy is that if you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.

But if we're going to have a contest of ideas, let's have a real race, not a hobby-horse one. After all this time, surely conservatives can come up with more interesting ideas on poverty than a tired debate about repealing the idea they had 75 years ago. ... 2:28 P.M. (link)

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Monday, Sept. 26, 2005

Blame Game: Sources say that Rafael Palmeiro may never play baseball again, after revelations that he blamed his positive steroid test on an innocent teammate, Miguel "Miggy" Tejada. Palmeiro reportedly told an appeals panel that steroids entered his system through a vitamin B-12 shot Tejada had given him.

The B-12 shot tested negative for steroids, which is more than can be said for Palmeiro. Now he's a marked man in every clubhouse in baseball. Raffy can retire the steroids Triple Crown as the No. 1 liar, user, and narc.

When the Palmeiro scandal first broke, I wondered whether he was supplying his old friend President Bush with steroids. Now it looks like Palmeiro may have an even more prominent role: supplying Bush with political advice.

Over the years, almost every time Bush has gotten into trouble, he has pulled a Palmeiro and blamed his problems on Bill Clinton, even though—like Tejada—Clinton was the one with MVP numbers. When the president was asked at a press conference to admit a mistake, he pulled a Palmeiro and said he couldn't think of one.

Every political professional in America, including Karl Rove, could have told the president that being handed the chance to come clean about a mistake is a fat pitch to hit out of the park, not a time for the take sign. The one professional capable of giving advice that bad is an ex-Ranger who always takes the Fifth, Rafael Palmeiro.

The Inside Skinny: With his gutless finger-pointing, Palmeiro managed to look even worse than the other star to flame out over drugs last week: Kate Moss, the human being least likely ever to test positive for steroids. When London tabloids published photos of Moss allegedly snorting cocaine, she didn't issue finger-wagging denials or try to blame Twiggy. She took "full responsibility" and apologized for letting the public down.

Burberry and Chanel fired her anyway. Too bad Moss doesn't play for Peter Angelos.

According to MSNBC, the Church of Scientology offered to help Moss kick the habit. One British columnist wrote that it would be bigger news if a supermodel had snorted donuts.

But Fleet Street is still feasting on reports of Moss's "three-in-a-bed lesbian orgies," proving yet again that Palmeiro is wrong: It's possible to win the tabloid Triple Crown without steroids or Viagra.

The Shots Heard Round the World: The Palmeiro flap raises another question: How should we feel about B-12 injections?

Nobody told Kate Moss, but B-12 shots appear to be quite the rage in Britain. This month, a London Times reporter tried them with a couple of Type-A Brits who have become regular B-12 users. The threesome concluded that they had found the miracle cure for every ailment from fatigue to hangovers: "A week later we all reported the same outcomes: increased energy levels, better sleep and a feeling of sharpness."

The Has-Been does not endorse vitamin experimentation, especially with needles. Readers should be wary of any advice column that begins and ends with, "Drop your trousers." If you're not careful, you could end up in the Daily Mirror.

But, like Viagra, B-12 shots have an extremely well-known, if not quite as thoroughly discredited, proponent: Margaret Thatcher. According to her longtime aide, Cynthia "Crawfie" Crawford, Thatcher tried everything to extend her career: electric baths, whiskey, and vitamin B-12 injections in what the highbrow British press delicately calls her "Prime Ministerial posterior."

Some journalists credit the injections with giving Thatcher the fortitude to overcome sex discrimination as Britain's first woman prime minister. Crawfie claims she gave the injections to Maggie herself, just as Raffy claimed he got one from Miggy.

A Cautionary Tail: It's bad enough that when Barry Bond's majestic 460-foot homer landed a few rows away from us at RFK last Tuesday, we couldn't applaud as loudly as we wanted because of nagging doubts about steroids. Now, every time Tejada hits one out, parents will have to decide which moral lesson to teach their children: Never go near needles, or always take your vitamins—by whatever means necessary.

If Palmeiro is advising George Bush, was Tejada advising Margaret Thatcher? Tejada might well have wanted to dissuade her from invading his native Dominican Republic the way she had attacked the Falkland Islands. He could have sought her influence with Ronald Reagan to make sure the D.R. didn't go the way of Grenada. One possible catch: Tejada was only 14 when Thatcher left office.

Nonetheless, the two B-12 users share remarkable strength and stamina. Tejada remains a force to be reckoned with and has played in more than 900 consecutive games, the longest streak among active players and the sixth longest in history, behind Cal Ripken and Lou Gehrig, "The Iron Horse."

Thatcher was the longest serving British prime minister since Lord Liverpool in the early 1800s and will always be remembered as "the Iron Lady." Or better yet, "the B-12 Plus Iron Lady."

Make Love and War: But the big question isn't about Miggy, it's about Maggie. Tejada's stamina is no surprise—he's only 29. Thatcher was 65 when she received her last official injection. At that age, it takes more than vitamins to extend your shelf life.

Could it be that the Iron Lady owes her legacy to more than whiskey and B-12? Is it possible that modern conservatism isn't a philosophy, but a drug protocol? Maybe Fleet Street is missing the real story: Margaret Thatcher is the one who hooked conservatives on steroids in the first place.

Coming Soon: Photos from the Daily Mirror's 'roid raid on Maggie Thatcher's three-in-a-bed lesbian orgies. Plus: Andrew Sullivan on "The New Conservative Synthesis." ... 6:57 A.M.(link)