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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 4, 2004

Opinion Columns

The year of the ‘hustle’

Commentary by Pat Murphy

After lying for 14 years about his gambling, bad boy Pete Rose is trying to mend his ways with confessions he hopes will end his banishment from baseball. Thus Rose’s nickname, "Charlie Hustle," as in snake oil salesman.

Not far behind is the National Football League hustle—its phony outrage about the trashy Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake halftime Super Bowl flesh show. Come, come. What would pro sports be without trashy behavior?

But this is the year of bigger hustles—the quadrennial run for the White House when candidates airbrush away politically damaging pasts and willy-nilly throw around "When I become president ..." promises.

One dodge of some wannabes is to hustle voters with the claim they’re "outsiders" unsullied by Washington politics, but utterly unfazed by the obvious hypocrisy of "outsiders" panting to become the ultimate insider.

Democrat Howard Dean, an unabashed hustler, boasted early on he doesn’t discuss religion. But now he announces he’ll engage in Bible talk to curry votes in the Bible Belt, where he hopes to also appeal to good ol’ boys with Confederate flags on pickup trucks.

Democrat John Kerry surely will need to explain his promise to fight "special interests" in light of a report from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that he’s collected more funds from lobbyists—$640,000—than any U.S. senator in 15 years.

You know it’s election time when the incumbent president begins his hustle—doling out goodies by the billions of dollars to capture voter blocs.

President Bush has proposed costly new programs at a breathless pace.

A program to pay for prescription drugs (the seniors vote). A mission to Mars (the scientist vote). "Healthy marriage" counseling program (the religious vote). Adding funds for the right-wing-detested National Endowment for the Arts (the culture vote).

Surely soon on the way will be goodies for the environmental vote, black and Hispanic votes, Muslim and Jewish votes, female vote, educators vote. The White House takes care of the CEO vote every day.

How much this would cost (if not just election year drivel) doesn’t matter. The federal deficit and national debt already are soaring into the realm of the unreal and unmanageable.

But even debt and deficit are part of the hustle.

In his Saturday radio speech, President Bush promised "making spending limits the law. This simple step would mean that every additional dollar the Congress wants to spend in excess of spending limits must be matched by a dollar in spending cuts elsewhere. Budget limits must mean something, and not just serve as vague guidelines to be routinely violated."

Bush talks as if the Republican-controlled Congress, not he, is responsible for a spending spree that fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona says reminds him of "a drunken sailor."

By the way, 2004 also is the year of the monkey on the Chinese calendar.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.