Dana Milbank watches the clown show:
During National Character Counts Week, Bush Stumps for Philanderer - washingtonpost.com: By Dana Milbank: Friday, October 20, 2006; A02LA PLUME, Pa., Oct. 19: So it has come to this: Nineteen days before the midterm elections, President Bush flew here to champion the reelection of a congressman who last year settled a $5.5 million lawsuit alleging that he beat his mistress during a five-year affair.
"I'm pleased to be here with Don Sherwood," a smiling president told the congressman's loyal but dispirited supporters at a luncheon fundraiser Thursday. "He has got a record of accomplishment."
Quite a record. While representing the good people of the 10th District, the married congressman shacked up in Washington with a Peruvian immigrant more than three decades his junior. During one assignation in 2004, the woman, who says Sherwood was striking her and trying to strangle her, locked herself in a bathroom and called 911; Sherwood told police he was giving her a back rub.
At a time when Republicans are struggling to motivate religious conservatives to go to the polls next month, it is not clear what benefit the White House found in sending Bush to stump for Sherwood -- smack dab in the middle of what Bush, in an official proclamation, dubbed "National Character Counts Week."
The president encouraged public officials "to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs" -- but public officials responded with some unusual ceremonies and activities: The House ethics committee is holding hearings on the page sex scandal; the FBI raided buildings as part of a probe involving Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.); and Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), the eighth person convicted in the Abramoff lobbying scandal, is refusing to vacate his seat in Congress.
On the other hand, while other Republicans proclaim their independence from Bush, Sherwood is one of the few still eager to bask in the president's faint glow. (Another was Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who, after a summer of racial and religious gaffes, was happy to welcome Bush in Richmond on Thursday evening.) Bush may be at a lowly 35 percent in the polls here, but Sherwood should be so lucky: Only 1 in 5 residents definitely intends to vote for him next month. By Sherwood standards, Bush is still a rock star.
"My family and I are humbled by having our friends support us, especially when one is the leader of this great country," Sherwood said in introducing Bush.
His wife and adult daughter stood on stage, human shields against scandal. Their discomfort became apparent when Bush, trying to defuse the controversy, praised the letter Carol Sherwood wrote to her husband's constituents this week about the "needlessly cruel" decision by his Democratic opponent to run an ad about the mistress's allegations. "I was deeply moved by her words," he said, while some in the dead-silent audience noticed an agonized look on daughter Maria Sherwood's face.
Bush was careful to avoid the usual lines about family and conservative values; he also skipped the usual first-name-only reference that would indicate that "Don" is a buddy. Onstage, he gave Sherwood the obligatory handshake and photograph but quickly moved to stand with the female Sherwoods...