From one end of the political spectrum to the other, the resentment of third parties is suddenly boiling over.

For two years, hardcore Gore backers have barely been able to utter Ralph Nader's name without spitting in contempt. Nader's ego trip, in their view, denied Gore the presidency.

Now it's the GOP's turn. A full-fledged spat has broken out between Republicans and Libertarians, with both sides trading insults on the opinion pages.

This promises to be fun.

You would think the Republicans would be feeling rather self-satisfied these days, having taken over every power center in D.C. except the Redskins. But they still feel they wuz robbed by a tiny party that can't win on its own.

To the uninitiated, libertarians are just faux Repubs, another branch of the feuding conservative family. But that fails to capture the leave-me-alone, pox-on-both-houses ethos of those who flock to the libertarian banner.

The debate goes to the heart of why independent movements exist. The major parties see the defectors as fuzzy-headed purists, modern-day Whigs who would rather indulge in protest politics than win power. The third-party enthusiasts see the Democrats and Republicans as K Street sellouts, doing the bidding of their corporate donors rather than heeding the wishes of The People. Not a dime's worth of difference and all that.

While the third-party champions of the past decade -- Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, Jesse Ventura -- are fading, the movements still have the power to tip elections. Much to the dismay of National Review's John Miller:

"If there had been no Libertarian Senate candidates in recent years, Republicans would not have lost control of the chamber in 2001, and a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority would likely be within reach," he declares in the New York Times.

"It's important to appreciate that Libertarian voters are not merely Republicans with an eccentric streak. Libertarians tend to support gay rights and open borders; they tend to oppose the drug war and hawkish foreign policies. Some of them wouldn't vote if they didn't have the Libertarian option.

"But Libertarians are also free-market devotees who are generally closer to Republicans than to the Democrats. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. Yet Libertarians are now serving, in effect, as Democratic Party operatives."

Take that!

The Weekly Standard's Rachel DiCarlo picks up the drumbeat, saying that in Sen. Tim Johnson's 524-vote victory over Republican John Thune in South Dakota, one factor "undoubtedly helped Johnson's cause: Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans managed to garner 3,000 votes from South Dakota's tiny electorate (just 234,435 people voted in the race).

"Libertarians also tipped the balance in favor of Democrats in some of the nation's excruciatingly close gubernatorial races this year. In Wisconsin, Democrat Jim Doyle can thank Libertarian Ed Thompson (brother of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson) for his victory. Thompson took in 185,000 votes, while Doyle's margin over incumbent Republican Scott McCallum was 68,000 votes.

"In Oklahoma, where a proposed cock-fighting ban drove rural voters to the polls to support Democrat Brad Henry, who opposed the measure, Republican Steve Largent had a bigger problem to contend with: Independent candidate Gary Richardson, who ran on a Libertarian platform. Richardson collected an astounding 14.1 percent of the vote, to Henry's 43.3 percent and Largent's 42.6 percent. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"When accused of spoiling elections for Republicans, Libertarians take an attitude similar to Ralph Nader's Green party when they were accused of spoiling the presidential election for Democrats in 2000: They don't care.

"Says George Getz, the Libertarian National Committee's press secretary, 'You can't spoil tainted meat.'"

Let's go now to Reason, a libertarian magazine, for a response:

"Even the Libertarian Party itself doesn't entirely deny pursuing the GOP-killer strategy that Miller decries,' writes Brian Doherty. 'But such spoiler complaints, whether from Democrats who think they should own the votes of Greens or Republicans who think free-market libertarians are their rightful vassals, ignore that there are good reasons why Greens or Libertarians should want to flee the major party fief. The candidates of the major parties, with their usual scrum for the center, just don't offer what the ideologically consistent want.

"If GOP partisans really wonder why the LP is beginning to cost them victories, they need look no farther than any given daily paper. A Republican-dominated federal government is giving us more federal land grabs, secret arrests, restrictions on political speech, and increased pushes for even wider-scale ability to do warrantless searches of phone and Internet lines.

"The libertarian-minded have very little reason to feel any loyalty to the Republicans, despite the GOP's pretensions to being the party of free markets and limited government. If the Republicans want to stop outsiders 'spoiling' their victories, they need to acknowledge that--and do something about it."

A similar argument is playing out on the left, where Ronnie Dugger -- bashing Bush's elevation to the White House as "a presidential and judicial coup" -- turns his back on the Greens:

"Bush must be beaten in 2004," Dugger writes in the Nation. "Not only the nation, but the world, depends on it. If we divide our votes for President again between the Democratic nominee and Ralph Nader, we will very probably help elect Bush. Therefore, Nader should not run for President as a Green in 2004.

"I have played a role in supporting Nader. I presented him to the Green Party conventions that nominated him in Los Angeles in 1996 and in Denver in 2000. Although I knew that supporting him risked helping elect Republican Presidents in both of those elections, we who supported him and began to forge a third-party politics were acting within our democratic and idealistic rights, believing that the short-run damage to good causes that we were risking was outweighed ethically by the long-run damage to democracy and social justice that the capture of the Democratic Party by major corporations has caused and, if not stopped, will continue to cause. We were taking a calculated risk, but we underestimated what we were risking.

"The Bush presidency is worse than we could plausibly have imagined, and the run-up to 2004 is not just another election, it is a crisis that leaves us no more time or room to maneuver.

"We, the Nader people, certainly put Bush close enough electorally for the Supreme Court to seize the presidency for him. Gore 'lost' because of many factors--including his own empty campaign--but the fact that an event has a multiplicity of causes does not dissolve any of those causes or absolve any group of players of their responsibility."

Which is a lot more than Nader has said as he bashes the Bushies.

On Day 2 of the Daschle/Limbaugh dustup, the senator said people like Rush "have to be aware of the consequences of their actions," while Limbaugh told CNN that Daschle was "whining."

InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds has this to say:

"Most mainstream media don't seem to be reproducing much of the actual shrill substance of Daschle's remarks. The only place I could find that was WorldNetDaily, which I take as a pretty good sign that both the mainstream media, and WorldNetDaily, know that Daschle's over-the-top remarks are more harmful to Democrats than to their targets.

"My take: Limbaugh, et al., have been trying for months to provoke Daschle into saying something stupid. And they've succeeded."

Brendan Nyhan, who writes the Spinsanity column, takes sharp exception to our contention yesterday (as did a number of e-mailers) that Tom Daschle went overboard in suggesting that Limbaugh was somehow inciting death threats against the Democratic leader. He says the conservative talker has actually been quite harsh on Daschle, citing this excerpt from a show last week:

"What more do you want to do to destroy this country than what you've already tried? [pounding table] It is unconscionable what this man has done! This stuff gets broadcast around the world, Senator. What do you want your nickname to be? Hanoi Tom? Tokyo Tom? You name it, you can have it apparently.

"You sit there and pontificate on the fact that we're not winning the war on terrorism when you and your party have done nothing but try to sabotage it, which you are continuing to do. This little speech of yours yesterday, and this appearance of yours on television last night, let's call it what it is. It's nothing more than an attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism for your own personal and your party's political gain. This is cheap. And it's beneath even you. And that's pretty low."

That ain't beanbag. But politics is a rough business.

Salon's Joe Conason also takes issue with our column:

"Tom Daschle deserves sympathy if his family is being threatened by talk radio listeners -- or by anyone else. Over the past year or so, Daschle has endured anthrax attacks, conservative advertising that paired him with Saddam Hussein, and finally a concerted, successful effort to defeat his Senate Democrats. The gentle, decent Air Force veteran's frustration must be considerable, particularly in the face of frequent attacks on his patriotism by a chicken-hawk like Rush Limbaugh (who infamously beat the Vietnam draft due to a boil on his butt, or his family's political influence, or possibly both). Yet it's hard to imagine what the Senate leader expected to accomplish by complaining about Limbaugh and his audience."

Your Congress at work, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"Sure, they made headlines by approving President Bush's Department of Homeland Security.

"But before senators brought down the curtain on the 107th Congress, they also enacted the Noxious Weed Control Act of 2002. They voted to establish institutes to study wildfire prevention in the West. And they approved a measure turning over 2,880 acres of federal land for a public shooting range on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

"While other issues drew more public attention, it was the more mundane topics -- those important to the folks back home and to politicians' self-preservation -- that occupied the final hours of the 2002 legislative session. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"In the early morning hours Wednesday, the Senate passed more than 100 bills, about 40 of which already had cleared the House and now go to the president for his signature. They included the shooting range bill, necessary to eliminate the danger of makeshift target practice areas popping up near homes and communities, said a spokesman for one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). To ensure the bill's passage, Reid stayed in the Senate chamber after most of his colleagues had gone to bed.",0,138009.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dpolitics

The secrets of great lawmaking.

The New York Times bids farewell to a Washington institution:

"The wizened old man is a familiar sight at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. Most weekday mornings, he can be seen impeccably dressed in suit and tie as he waits for a black sedan. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"The aged man is Strom Thurmond, the longest-serving senator in the history of the United States and, at 99, the only one ever to make his permanent home in a hospital.

"This week, after nearly 48 years, 16,348 votes and the longest filibuster in Senate history (an ardent segregationist for decades, he spoke for more than a day to oppose a civil rights bill in 1957), Mr. Thurmond, a South Carolina Republican, appeared in the Senate for the last time. He always said he wanted to live to be 100 and finish his eighth term. With a birthday on Dec. 5 and his term set to expire on Jan. 3, he is on course to do both."

People always say they want their politicians to make tough decisions -- until it happens.

"Mayor Bloomberg's 11-month honeymoon with New Yorkers is over," says the New York Post under the banner head "GLOOMBERG."

"A new poll shows that his popularity nose-dived after he announced plans last week for slashing services and raising taxes to cope with $7.5 billion in budget deficits.

"The numbers for Bloomberg weren't just bad -- they were horrendous. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. A day after the poll began, Nov. 14, Bloomberg proposed raising property taxes by 25 percent and slicing $780 million in services to help close a $1.1 billion gap this year and a $6.4 billion deficit next year. The mayor's overall approval rating quickly tumbled into negative territory for the first time since he took office, with 41 percent saying he's doing a good job compared to 46 percent who said he's not."

Amrican Prowler's Michael Craig dares to criticize Rudy:

"Rudy Giuliani has been on a hot roll for so long that maybe he can be forgiven for thinking it will last forever. He spent two terms as an effective, popular mayor, a Republican in a Democratic stronghold. He chose the right issues, developed effective measures, and actually changed the city's attitude about itself, as well as the country's. His composure, dignity, and resolve following the terrorist attacks on his city became a rallying point for the nation.

"Until this week, it looked like that roll could sweep Giuliani into whatever political office he might seek in 2006 or 2008, even the presidency. The former mayor has been making some serious money this year -- a best-selling book, another on the way, $100,000 per speech, consulting deals on crime prevention and crisis management -- without compromising himself or his popularity. At the same time, he has forged relationships with the nation's business leaders that will prove valuable for any future political run.

"So why in the world is Rudy Giuliani getting mixed up in WorldCom's bankruptcy reorganization? On Monday, his consulting company, Giuliani Partners, confirmed that he was working with vulture-investing whiz David Matlin to raise money to continue buying WorldCom's depressed debt securities and control its reorganization. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Although nobody should begrudge Rudy a chance to make some money, this looks too much like a cash grab."

Talk about negative feedback. Check out this Denver Post piece:

"The president of the Cheyenne County school board allegedly dumped a pile of horse manure on the counter of the newspaper in Cheyenne Wells on Wednesday.

"Publisher Joyce Escudero's son Gary, who witnessed the dumping, said it happened after school board President Sam Mitchek read a front-page story in the weekly newspaper, published Wednesday, that was critical of him.

"'I think it is something fairly humorous and in this case probably deserved,' school Superintendent Bill Zitterkopf said Wednesday. Escudero, however, was not amused. 'I got madder than the devil and then I got sad,' Escudero said.",1413,36%257E53%257E1003737%257E,00.html

Some people know how to make a stink.

Finally, one official has discovered sex sells on television, the Washington Times finds:

"A Federal Communications Commission official yesterday called for an overhaul of the government's broadcast indecency standards as hundreds of complaints flooded his office about the Victoria's Secret lingerie fashion show that aired on prime time national television Wednesday night.

"Michael Copps, one of five commissioners at the FCC, urged the agency to revise the definition of indecency and look into whether it should be expanded to include obscene, violent and profane programming. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"The second annual 'Victoria's Secret Fashion Show' featured barely dressed models, including Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bundchen showing off the lingerie chain's wares. The women wore bras, panties, garter skirts, thigh-highs and something called 'a balconette bra with stretch lace that bares as it lifts,' said the company's Web site."

We must have been watching C-SPAN at the time.