Ken Mehlman spins the election results

And he dodges a question about Satan.

Published November 9, 2005 9:05PM (EST)

We missed today's Republican National Committee conference call, the one in which Ken Mehlman apparently tried to spin away last night's election returns as a sign that voters are simply "happy with the status quo." But it seems that we were just about the only ones who didn't make the call: A number of folks from outside the news media dialed in, and some -- including readers and posters at Daily Kos -- heckled the RNC chairman.

Somebody asked whether, in light of the election results, it was safe to conclude that Satan has taken over America. Someone else asked why Republicans "suck so much ass." A third non-media caller asked Mehlman a serious if obviously loaded question about Ahmed Chalabi.

Mehlman didn't answer any of those questions, but he did explain how George W. Bush is going to handle Republican candidates who find that they'd be better served by steering clear of the president. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore may have learned that lesson about a day too late. Other Republicans are taking it to heart now. Earlier today, Don Imus asked J.D. Hayworth, a Republican congressman from Arizona, whether he'd like Bush to campaign on his behalf. His answer: "In a word, no. At this time."

Mehlman seemed to acknowledge the president's new political reality, and he said that Bush will simply go where he's wanted and stay away where he isn't. "This president is a stand-up guy," Mehlman said. "When an ally, or someone he believes in, asks for help, he provides that help."

It sounded so free-to-be-you-and-me, at least until Mehlman got to the subject of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. At a press conference yesterday, Reid said that a "dark cloud" hangs over the White House, and that it seems to hover particularly close to Vice President Dick Cheney. Reid cited the CIA leak case, oil company profits, faulty prewar intelligence and allegations of contracting abuses by Halliburton. Mehlman's response: Reid was spreading "conspiracy theories," and his press conference pronouncements amounted to a "Lyndon LaRouche moment."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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