washingtonpost.com
Tiger's mea culpa

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 19, 2010; 12:42 PM

Well, he looked sorry.

He appeared shell-shocked and humbled.

Tiger Woods took no questions Friday morning, and that was a mistake, prompting golf writers to boycott the stage-managed event. But however practiced it may have been, Tiger seemed highly emotional in seeking the public's forgiveness.

If only he had done this a couple of months ago, instead of hiding from the cameras.

He used some therapy-speak, talking about trying to "regain my balance" and "be centered." But he is still in therapy, and said he returns to rehab Saturday.

It was certainly a strongly written apology, whoever wrote it. He was "sorry," he had caused "pain," he was "embarrassed," he "let down my fans," he had "affairs," he "cheated," he felt "entitled." This was no passive, mistakes-were-made speech.

Tiger took plenty of whacks at the press. No one likes the press these days, but that seemed out of place.

First, he said his wife, Elin -- who was conspicuously absent -- never attacked or hurt him on the night of the fateful car crash. "It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that," Tiger said. But there was media speculation precisely because he had never addressed it before, until now.

Tiger also railed at those who he says followed his 2 1/2 -year-old daughter to school and staked out his wife and mother. "Please leave my wife and kids alone," he declared. Following kids is despicable, but come on, that's a few paparazzi. The mainstream media don't do that.

He said he understands the press wants "details and times that I was unfaithful," but decreed that a matter between him and his wife. That's fine, everyone in public life wants a zone of privacy, but it's not going to stop the stories.

Tiger also said he had fallen away from Buddhism but was once again embracing it during this crisis. Brit Hume, take note.

I thought he'd announce he was returning to golf soon; he was ambiguous about the timing. Maybe he wants to see how the apology goes over. He alienated the press by not holding a real news conference, but maybe he'll score points for appearing contrite.

It's not too much to say that this is a man in pain -- self-inflicted, to be sure, but pain nonetheless. But putting the tawdriness of the multiple mistresses behind him will probably take more than one carefully controlled television appearance.

Attention deficit

Can Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson save the republic?

Or is President Obama's deficit commission just another government gimmick?

Having endured countless blue-ribbon panels during my time in Washington, I feel confident in saying that most are an utter waste of time.

Remember the Jim Baker commission that was supposed to figure a way out of the Iraq war? George W. Bush ignored the findings of the panel, led by his father's secretary of state.

In conjuring up a committee Thursday to stem the tide of federal red ink -- and naming a former GOP Senate leader and Bill Clinton's onetime chief of staff to lead it -- Obama can easily be accused of kicking the can down the road. The great advantage of a commission is that you appear to be doing something. By the time the esteemed members deliver their esteemed report, the heat may be off. If you don't like the findings, you can do nothing.

In short, the whole thing may be an academic exercise.

But there are occasional exceptions, most notably the 1983 Social Security panel, headed by Alan Greenspan in his pre-maestro days. Its work was instrumental in saving the system through a mixture of hiking payroll taxes, raising the retirement age and delaying a cost-of-living increase. But the reason it worked is that Ronald Reagan and House Majority Leader Tip O'Neill were willing to make a deal, and the commission gave each side the political cover they needed.

That is precisely what is missing today, no matter how well-intentioned the president may be. After all, seven Republican senators who had sponsored the idea of a commission wound up voting against their own proposal once Obama embraced it, which is why the president had to act by executive order. These players couldn't even put together a quick jobs bill. They're still arguing about the shape of the negotiating table.

There are only three ways to reduce the budget deficit: cut spending, raise taxes or a mixture of both. If each party refuses to consider a compromise, the thing goes nowhere, and Bowles and Simpson wind up as historical footnotes.

We already see the conservative argument in this piece in Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller:

"The White House has already begun to lay the groundwork for their argument that such a recommendation by the panel should not be blamed on the president, who vowed during his campaign not to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $250,000. 'The president will not sit on the commission and the options they present will not necessarily reflect administration policy,' a White House official told The Daily Caller."

If Obama went along with a tax hike on the middle class, it would indeed break his read-my-lips pledge. But he can't very well call for a commission and rule out a possible recommendation in advance.

Joe Biden's economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, chatted up liberal bloggers at the White House, and John Aravosis has a report:

"Bernstein said that the progressive blogs (perhaps he said progressive media in general) haven't done enough over the past year to tell the positive side of the stimulus.

"Hmm. . . . Didn't sound quite right to me, so I checked our archives. On AMERICAblog, we've written at least 44 posts about the stimulus over the past year. That's almost one a week. We also wrote 186 posts that mention the stimulus. But the larger issue is that the blogs have not been recalcitrant in promoting the president's agenda. We're the biggest rah-rah team he's got on the economy, other than the fact that most of us believe that the stimulus was too small. . . .

"The problem with the stimulus messaging is, well, the stimulus messaging itself. The problem is the White House messaging operation. It kind of sucks. . . . Nowadays it's pretty much accepted around town that the WH has been losing the messaging war with the GOP on a lot of issues."

Nothing like tough love.

Strong tea

Stirring carefully, Karl Rove serves up advice to the tea party movement -- and the Republicans (whose chairman, Michael Steele, just met with the tea party leaders):

"My advice to them is to keep their distance from any single party and instead influence both parties on debt, spending and an over-reaching federal government. Allowing third-party movements to co-opt the tea partiers' good name, which is happening in Nevada, will only serve to elect opponents of the tea party philosophy of low-taxes and fiscal restraint. It could also discredit the tea party movement.

"A small fraction of the tea partiers' leadership are ambitious individuals who haven't been able to hold office in either the GOP or Democratic Party. Some are from fringe groups like the John Birch Society or the remnants of the LaRouchies. Others see the tea party movement as a recruiting pool for volunteers for Ron Paul's next presidential bid.

"If tea party groups are to maximize their influence on policy, they must now begin the difficult task of disassociating themselves from cranks and conspiracy nuts. This includes 9/11 deniers, 'birthers' who insist Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and militia supporters espousing something vaguely close to armed rebellion.

"The GOP is also better off if it foregoes any attempt to merge with the tea party movement. The GOP cannot possibly hope to control the dynamics of the highly decentralized galaxy of groups that make up the tea party movement. There will be troubling excesses and these will hurt Republicans if the party is formally associated with tea party groups."

In a related story, a featured speaker at a tea party gathering in Washington state called for the hanging of Sen. Patty Murray. Stay classy, tea lady.

(My favorite part is the intro by a KLEW-TV anchor, who says there were "strong words" at the gathering. Strong words indeed.)

Big Mac attack

Some on the right who never loved John McCain are falling for his GOP challenger, former congressman J.D. Hayworth. National Review's Robert Costa reports on Mac's defense:

"McCain tells us that he's taking Hayworth's challenge seriously (he's already spent $2.5 million on his campaign). He doesn't, however, buy into the growing media narrative that the race is a case of 'moderate versus outsider.' Instead, McCain sees his primary campaign as 'maverick conservative versus pork-barrel spender.'

" 'When the tea partiers take a close look at Mr. Hayworth's record and see all of his earmarks and all of his ties to Jack Abramoff, they'll find a record that demands scrutiny,' McCain says. 'We have the letters and legislative records to prove it. And we will. At the same time, I'm proud of my record as a conservative and for taking on my party on spending and earmarks. When tea partiers examine my fiscal record, they'll find a friend. We may have disagreement on some issues, but I'm confident that we will get significant support.' McCain adds that the tea-party movement is 'part of a groundswell of frustration' with which he identifies. 'A majority of Americans are angry about their economic situation and the failure of Congress and the president to act on their behalf. I want to keep fighting for their interests,' he says.

"McCain also frowns on Hayworth's getting mired in the debate over President Obama's birth certificate. 'With unemployment at 10 percent, our country engaged in two wars, and Arizona hurting more than ever, Mr. Hayworth obviously has his priorities upside down,' McCain says."

Is the birther nonsense now a legitimate GOP platform?

As for the other half of the 2008 ticket, it's one thing when liberals take their potshots at Sarah Palin. But George Will wonders why she doesn't fade into obscurity like Barry Goldwater's running mate, Bill Miller:

"Sarah Palin, who with 17 months remaining in her single term as Alaska's governor quit the only serious office she has ever held, is obsessively discussed as a possible candidate in 2012. Why? She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states. . . .

"She is what she is, and what she is merits no disdain. She is feisty and public-spirited, and millions of people vibrate like tuning forks to her rhetoric. When she was suddenly forced to take a walk on the highest wire in America's political circus, she showed grit. . . .

"She also showed that grit is no substitute for seasoning. She has been subjected to such irrational vituperation -- loathing largely born of snobbery -- that she can be forgiven for seeking the balm of adulation from friendly audiences. . . .

"Palin is united with the media in a relationship of mutual loathing. This is not her fault. But neither is it her validation."

I don't think most journalists loathe Palin; they see her as a meal ticket.

Evan almighty

The Bayh retirement may not have been as badly timed for the Dems as most of us thought, at least according to Fred Barnes:

"Did Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, who insists he favors more bipartisanship in Washington, schedule the announcement of his retirement to give his party a distinctly partisan advantage in picking a candidate to run for his seat? It sure looks like he did exactly that.

"Indeed, Democratic strategists and party officials in Indiana were full of praise for Bayh for delivering his announcement less than 24 hours before the filing deadline for candidates. This means party leaders -- 32 of them -- will pick a candidate (by June 30), and a primary will be averted.

"Republicans, in contrast, have five candidates who met the filing deadline. . . . The Republican candidate will be chosen in a May 4 primary election.

"The Bayh move helps Democrats in several significant ways. Republicans will have to spend large amounts of money in the primary campaign. Democrats won't. Primaries are often divisive and damaging to the candidate who wins the nomination. Democrats won't face that problem. And Democrats will know who the Republican candidate is two months before they have to name a candidate of their own."

The only losers? Democratic primary voters.

Moonlighting

The Nation examines pols-turned-pundits who pop off on programs without going public about their pocketbooks. For instance, Tom Ridge, who talked up nuclear power on "Hardball": "Since 2005, Ridge has pocketed $530,659 in executive compensation for serving on the board of Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear power company. . . .

"Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials -- people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests -- have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them."

But the piece says some of the cable channels are getting better about disclosure.

Duke redux

The Duke rape case was a truly low moment for the media, which rushed to judgment based on the bogus accusations of one woman against lacrosse players who had their reputations unfairly trashed. Now comes this reminder of the woman who dragged the country through that racially charged fraud:

"Durham police arrested Duke lacrosse accuser Crystal Gale Mangum, 33, late Wednesday after she allegedly assaulted her boyfriend, set his clothes on fire in a bathtub and threatened to stab him. . . .

"Police charged her with attempted first-degree murder, five counts of arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, injury to personal property, identity theft and resisting a public officer."

Obama steers clear

The president has gone up against the top anchors in the business, but there is one man he apparently fears. Time's Michael Scherer gets the lowdown from Robert Gibbs on a possible appearance on the "Daily Show":

" 'I think the president would love to, just maybe not Colbert.' He went on to explain: 'I have yet to see a politician best Stephen Colbert in an interview on his show,' Gibbs said, laughing. 'I mean, he's really, really good.' "

And Jon Stewart is chopped liver?

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."

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