You might have a passing familiarity with the latest sinister Beltway force that is being accused of trying to ensure that George W. Bush remains in office.

It's called The Washington Post.

That, at least, is the view of columnist James Pinkerton, who worked in the first Bush White House. He sees The Post as having undergone some kind of dramatic metamorphosis.

Pinkerton is talking about the editorial page, not the news coverage. And I've got some news for him. The Post's editorial page has not been as liberal as its reputation for a long, long time. It's not the New York Times, though the two are often lumped together by conservative critics.

In 1988, when the late Meg Greenfield was running the page, The Post did not make an endorsement in the presidential race rather than embrace Michael Dukakis.

In the mid-'90s, even before denouncing Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal, the page was all over him for demagoguing the Medicare issue and for sleazy fundraising practices. And under Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, the page has continued to back a strong and aggressive military, just as it backed the Iraq war.

Shouldn't editorial writers try to dope out issues rather than take a predictably partisan stance?

Here's the Pinkerton piece, in Salon: | http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2004/08/04/washington_post/index.html

"Remember the days when the Washington Post was the enemy of the Republican administration in the White House? Those days are gone. Today, the neoconservative voice of the Post's editorial page is one of President Bush's most valuable allies.

"It's possible, of course, to find more hawkish voices than that of the Post, but none have the same wide circulation or impact -- and none have the Post's liberal reputation. Which is a gift to the neocons, who can say, 'Even the liberal Washington Post agrees with us!' . . .

"Now the Post's editorial page is helping the current Republican president win reelection. To be sure, the Post rarely praises Bush, but it frequently pokes at John Kerry. Which amounts to the same difference.

"Exhibit A is the Post's lead editorial on July 30, the morning after Kerry's acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention, titled 'A Missed Opportunity.' The editorial takes Kerry to task for not embracing Bush's war in Iraq.

"That nonembrace made Kerry's speech 'a disappointment,' according to the paper. The Post fretted that 'Kerry last night elided the charged question of whether, as president, he would have gone to war in Iraq. He offered not a word to celebrate the freeing of Afghans from the Taliban, or Iraqis from Saddam Hussein, and not a word about helping either nation toward democracy.' At a time when even conservatives such as William F. Buckley, Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson have backed away from their once rock-solid support for the war, surely the Democratic nominee's waning enthusiasm for the war in Iraq is not a shock. . . .

"The horror! If I didn't know better -- the Washington Post is, after all, by great reputation, a liberal newspaper -- I would think that the Post was trying to sabotage the Democratic candidate by seeking to talk him into upholding an open-ended war policy that antagonizes most Democrats and independents . . .

"If the bugle-blowing Post of today had been around in the '60s, the war in Vietnam might have taken a different turn. And in the '70s, the presidency of Richard Nixon might have taken a different turn, too."

I have to take issue with the last sentence. Pinkerton's Vietnam point is right: the paper's shift from a pro-war to criticizing-the-war stance in the late '60s was a big deal. But no one particularly cared what the Post editorial page said about Richard Nixon. It was the news coverage, the Woodward-and-Bernstein coverage, that set in motion the events that led to the Trickster's impeachment, and it's a mistake to confuse the two.

I asked Hiatt for a response, and here's what he said:

"There are a lot of strange things in that column, but I thought the strangest was his attacking us for saying that the United States should be more active in preventing genocide in Darfur. I really couldn't follow how that message is 'pro-Bush,' since what we're saying is that the Bush administration (among others) isn't doing enough to keep as many as a million people from starving to death. Do only 'neocons' want to intervene to prevent genocide, in Pinkerton's view?

"His overall message seemed to be that we ought to bend our principles in order to give a tactical advantage to one candidate or another. We don't do that."

The Boss visited with Ted Koppel last night and made clear he is Born to Run against Bush.

"Directly entering partisan politics for the first time," says the Los Angeles Times, | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-080404artists_lat,0,5942064.story "rock icon Bruce Springsteen will join a loose coalition of high-profile musicians in an unprecedented early October concert blitz aimed at mobilizing opposition to President Bush.

"The concert tour ranks among the most ambitious efforts ever by entertainers of any kind to influence the outcome of a presidential race. The effort, announced this morning, will send over 20 artists to perform more than 34 shows in nine battleground states during a single week in early October, hoping to not only raise money but attract publicity and sway voters. Besides Springsteen, those participating include the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and John Mellencamp."

A leak investigation that actually produced results? That's what The Washington Post | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40886-2004Aug4.html says, according to, um, well, a leak:

"Federal investigators concluded that Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to sources familiar with the probe.

"Specifically, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron confirmed to FBI investigators that Shelby verbally divulged the information to him during a June 19, 2002, interview, minutes after Shelby's committee had been given the information in a classified briefing, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case.

"Cameron did not air the material. Moments after Shelby spoke with Cameron, he met with CNN reporter Dana Bash, and about half an hour after that, CNN broadcast the material, the sources said. CNN cited 'two congressional sources' in its report. The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office pursued the case, and a grand jury was empaneled, but nobody has been charged with any crime."

I'm shocked that a senator would spill the beans to the press.

The media just loved the fact that Bush and Kerry were working the same 'hood yesterday:

"There are battleground states, and there are swing counties," says the New York Times. | http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/05/politics/campaign/05campaign.html

"And then there was Wednesday's political equivalent of hand-to-hand combat, as President Bush and Senator John Kerry came nearly within shouting distance of each other in this small city rich with independent-minded voters, which seemed not all that surprised by the attention.

"The dueling campaign events gave humid Davenport the feel of a crisp day in late October, while apparently giving ne'er-do-wells the idea that the police would be overtaxed: there were three bank robberies within an hour. Motorcades wrapped around streets, paralyzing traffic and all but bumping into each other.

"While Mr. Bush delivered his stump speech under gray, muggy skies in LeClaire Park, along the banks of the Mississippi, Mr. Kerry presided over an 'economic summit' just four blocks away at the River Center exhibition hall."

Too bad they drove up the crime rate:

"Bank robbers struck three times Wednesday while President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry were stumping for votes in this eastern Iowa town," says the AP | http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-08-04-iowa-banks-robbed_x.htm.

Hotline poses what I think is a cogent series of questions about the Boston bash:

"The downside of no obvious poll bounce for John Kerry is that the C.W. crowd begins to re-examine their initial impressions of last week's convo. It's the reverse of what happened to Gore when pundits immediately panned it but after the bounce, reevaluated it as a brilliant moment. Some lingering questions: Was the convention too nice? Was Kerry's speech too harsh? Was Edwards misused? Why didn't KE'04 do a better job of setting their own bounce expectations and pushing back on Matt Dowd's now ingenious memo? Do news-less conventions actually hurt? Should running mates be unveiled at conventions? Did the balloon fiasco suck up too much CNN oxygen? Are four days two too many?"

The Wall Street Journal diagnoses a Kerry problem:

"At a recent town-hall meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., a doctor told John Kerry that many physicians oppose the Democratic presidential candidate because they think he wouldn't curb costly medical-malpractice lawsuits.

"The Massachusetts senator's response: Just as former President Nixon, known for his anti-Communist views, shocked the world by establishing ties with China, Mr. Kerry would surprise physicians by moving on medical-liability suits -- despite the Democrats' longtime ties to trial lawyers.

"But, to many doctors, Mr. Kerry is carrying heavy baggage on his metaphorical trip to China: his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"Mr. Edwards, a former trial lawyer, made a fortune suing doctors and others for medical malpractice. As a result, he has become the lightning rod in a well-financed doctors' campaign against the Democratic ticket."

Maybe Kerry should have picked Dean to sew up the medical vote.

I've been writing about Reverend Al since the '80s, so I was interested in this broadside from Jonah Goldberg: | http://nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200408040907.asp

"It was hardly shocking that Al Sharpton was permitted to speak at the Democratic Convention. But a scandal needn't be a surprise to still be a scandal. What is stunning, however, is how his speech has been received. Business Week has hailed him as 'the toast of the Democratic Establishment' and the usual nattering-chattering shows are treating him like an elder statesmen of the party. One would call it a rehabilitation, except for the fact he was never habilitated in the first place.

"Sharpton's re-creation is all the more miraculous -- and disgusting -- because it came without an apology for the Tawana Brawley affair. Nor any serious penance for the murderous 'protests' he helped inspire that resulted in four people shot and eight burned to death -- all because they represented what Sharpton called 'white interlopers' in Harlem (the majority of victims were actually neither white nor black)."

'I asked Sharpton about Brawley during the primaries and he still sees nothing to apologize for, despite the slander verdict against him.

"Democrats contend this is all 'ancient history' -- even as the Democrats tout their nominee's war record from three decades ago. And complain though we might, Sharpton has indeed become one of the most important voices in black America. But at the end of the day his voice hasn't changed much.

"Sharpton allegedly tore up his original, Kerry-approved speech and rewrote it in response to President Bush's recent address to the Urban League. In those remarks, Bush had rhetorically asked whether blacks should reconsider their lopsided support for the Democratic party. . . .

"After a stem-winder of a peroration on the long struggle by blacks for civil rights and the usual mythologizing about the Florida recount, Sharpton stared straight into the camera and declared with a boom: 'This [black] vote can't be bargained away. This vote can't be given away. Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale. . . . '

"So here's my problem: With all due respect, this is a crock. If Sharpton means to say that Republicans are trying to bribe blacks into giving up their right to vote -- as the text seemingly suggests -- then he's still the deceitful demagogue he was in the 1980s. There's no evidence Republicans tried, or even thought of, anything of the sort."

Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ riffs on the $7.5 million fine for a company with a famous ex-CEO over not disclosing accounting changes that allowed it to overstate profits in 1998 and '99:

"Halliburton's former CFO and controller have been the subject of an SEC investigation related to this, but Halliburton's former CEO -- who, you may recall, is currently the vice president of the United States -- is in the clear. Why? Because the SEC was unable to find any evidence that he knew what was going on.

"All I can say about this is that it must be mind-numbingly frustrating to be an SEC investigator. Dick Cheney -- like most CEOs in cases like this -- is off the hook because there's no smoking gun. But anybody who's spent even a few minutes in the executive suite of a large corporation knows that of course Cheney knew about this. Not only did he know, but this over-budget project was almost certainly a subject of considerable interest to him, the cost overruns were probably a subject of numerous status reports, and the effect on Halliburton's earnings was surely a frequent source of conversation. There is nothing that a CEO pays more attention to than his company's quarterly and yearly earnings reports. Nothing."

The embarrassing, post-Mike Ditka hunt for someone to run against Obama after the guy with the hyperactive sex life dropped out continues, as the Chicago Tribune | http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/elections/chi-0408040324aug04,1,2130463.story?coll=chi-electionsprint-hed reports:

"Illinois Republican leaders on Tuesday neared the end of their frustrating search for a candidate in the U.S. Senate race, selecting two African-Americans as finalists for the party's nomination to face Democrat Barack Obama, who also is black.

"Following a meeting that lasted more than seven hours, the Illinois Republican State Central Committee selected Alan Keyes and Dr. Andrea Grubb Barthwell, two candidates who will likely face an uphill battle against Obama. Keyes has already lost two Senate races in Maryland and has few connections to Illinois while Barthwell boasts a long resume but has never run for elected office."

Bringing in someone from another state to run for Senate? That would never work (unless, maybe, you were first lady).

Finally, the Weekly Standard's Erin Montgomery | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/441xqygd.asp on left-wing lovers:

"Christina 'C.J.' Frogozo, a 24-year-old self-proclaimed Democrat since the fifth grade, will never date another Republican again. 'My Republican ex-boyfriend and I would literally have three-hour telephone fights about politics, and he used to refer to me and my friends as 'you liberals. . . . '

"Frogozo eventually convinced him to give money to the Kerry campaign, but the gesture wasn't enough to save the relationship. 'I'm now dating a nice Democrat, who I actually converted from a Republican,' she says proudly. She explains how her current boyfriend recently slipped a 'present' under her door: a voter re-registration card with the 'party of choice' box checked 'Democrat.' It must be love.

"Listening to Frogozo talk about her romantic history last week at the Democratic National Convention, at a bar on Beacon Hill called 21st Amendment, I was amazed by how much power the attractive and stylishly dressed brunette had over the opposite sex. She is as creative as she is persistent and pretty. She's also concerned.

"As the founder of DemDates.com--a website that allows single Democrats to post and browse personal profiles a la Match.com, as well as meet and mingle at planned social events in their home city--she doesn't want other Democrats to make the same mistake she did (date a Republican). 'You have to think about things that really get people at their hearts: politics, love, and religion,' Frogozo says. If you already have similar political views with the person you're dating, 'the rest of it seems to fall into place, I think.'"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What about the superficial stuff, like looks?