- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2000

Disappointed reporters

CNN and the Fox News Channel took note of Sen. John McCain's attack on Al Gore during the Arizonan's first day back in the Senate following his run for the presidency. But ABC and NBC ignored Mr. McCain completely Tuesday night, while CBS made no mention of Mr. McCain's remarks about Mr. Gore's suspect credentials as a campaign finance reformer, the Media Research Center reports.

Brit Hume of the Fox News Channel suggested that the huge throng of reporters covering Mr. McCain that day may have been "surprised, and possibly even disappointed" that Mr. McCain chose the vice president as his target, rather than Congress or Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Gore's 'reunion'

For the first time since sewing up his party's presidential nomination, Vice President Al Gore met on Capitol Hill yesterday with House Democrats and papered over serious differences on China trade policy.

"The subject did not come up… . We did not get into a discussion of too many issues," Mr. Gore told reporters in a Capitol corridor following what he called "a reunion" with fellow Democrats after the presidential primary season.

Standing with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, who has been in the vanguard of opponents to the administration's trade agenda with China, Mr. Gore preferred to focus on party unity, the Associated Press reports.

He played down his stated promise to lobby for China's entry into the World Trade Organization and for permanent trade benefits for China two issues on which he and the Clinton administration split with many Democrats and organized labor. "I've talked with undecided members and I intend to continue doing that," he said.

McCain's cash

After his victory in the New Hampshire primary, John McCain raised more money than any presidential candidate last month. Bill Bradley, who lost, raised the least.

Federal Election Commission reports show Mr. McCain raised $11.1 million in February, while Mr. Bradley raised just $710,294, the Associated Press reports.

"Clearly, one campaign was on fire and one had essentially extinguished," said Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that studies money and campaigns. "It was pretty clear to the entire country that the McCain campaign was getting all the attention in the month of February and Bradley was dropping and dropping fast."

The two candidates abandoned their presidential bids following the Super Tuesday primaries March 7, leaving the field to Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

Mr. McCain's fund raising allowed him to outspend Mr. Bush in February. Mr. McCain reported spending $13.5 million to Mr. Bush's $13.1 million. But Mr. Bush ran more campaign ads, spending $7.6 million to Mr. McCain's $6.6 million. Mr. McCain also spent $1.4 million on direct mail and $989,000 on phone banks.

Mr. Bradley spent more than twice as much as Mr. Gore, $12.7 million to $6.1 million. More than half of the amount, or $7.8 million, went for commercials. Mr. Gore spent $3.8 million on radio and TV.

Money magnet

"The iconic has turned ironic," New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd says of Sen. John McCain, noting that "after running an idealistic [presidential] campaign to curb the corrupting influence of money on American politics, he will use his new cachet to try to inject more cash into American politics."

"Although he plans to keep fighting for campaign finance reform, he is the GOP's new money magnet. Republicans who once winced every time he opened his mouth on the campaign trail are now salivating at the prospect of having him headline their fund-raisers to raise money so they can hold onto their majorities in Congress and further thwart campaign finance reform," the columnist said.

"The high priest of lower spending is even forming a PAC, a personal fund-raising machine, to round up bucks to get his anti-money message across. He defends himself: 'I will campaign for people but I won't have anything to do with soft-money events.' The PAC, he says, 'will help us formulate an agenda.' "

Governing by polls

Bill and Hillary Clinton's habit of governing by polls began when they were living in the Arkansas governor's mansion, former adviser Dick Morris reveals.

In fact, the Clintons used Mr. Morris' own polling to decide how many teachers to flunk in state exams, Mr. Morris writes in the New York Post.

As part of their education reforms, the Clintons had demanded teacher testing. But they were chagrined to find that one-third to one-half were flunking.

Mr. Morris quotes Mr. Clinton as saying of the teacher flunk-outs: "It was a disaster. It was way too high. If I enforced the passing grade, I'd have to flunk a third or a half of them. I can't do that. We'd particularly have to fire a high percentage of minority teachers. But I can decide what score is passing and what is failing."

So Mr. Clinton and his wife asked Mr. Morris to do a poll to find out what percentage of teachers the voters of Arkansas expected to fail the tests. The result: 10 percent.

"I reported the poll findings to the Clintons. When the test results were released, I was not surprised to read that only one-tenth of the teachers flunked the ratio my poll had suggested would be politically feasible."

Perhaps not coincidentally, Arkansas still ranks 49th in education.

Duck and hide?

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson charges that four congresswomen who sit on the advisory board of Women Leaders Online, one of the lead groups trying to oust the Vatican from the United Nations, are trying to hide their involvement in the group's activities.

On Tuesday, the Women Leaders Online removed pictures of Reps. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, and Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, as well as former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, New York Democrat, from its Web page after receiving inquiries about what the RNC calls its "anti-Catholic bias."

"It's no surprise to me that these congresswomen are ashamed to be involved in such a bigoted plot to deny the Vatican a voice in the United Nations," Mr. Nicholson said. "However, this cowardly game of duck and hide will not be tolerated by Catholics. Instead, these four members must repudiate the anti-Catholic views of this organization."

Mr. Nicholson has called on Al Gore and Hillary Clinton to repudiate two groups that are calling for the eviction of the Vatican from the United Nations the National Abortion Rights Action League and the Women Leaders Online. NARAL has endorsed Mr. Gore for president.

Condom tax break

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is disappointed that condoms are among the over-the-counter medical items that will be exempt from Texas sales taxes beginning next month, a spokeswoman says.

The Republican presidential candidate, who has said abstinence should be promoted to teen-agers, proposed the tax break during his re-election campaign in 1998 and didn't want it to cover condoms, said his spokeswoman, Linda Edwards.

But state Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander said Tuesday she had no choice but to list condoms as a product that will be exempt from the 6.25 percent state sales tax and local sales taxes beginning April 1, the Associated Press reports.

The Legislature specified that the tax break should cover any product that has a National Drug Code number issued by the Food and Drug Administration and is used to diagnose, treat or prevent disease and suffering.

Scary mail

"The Census Bureau has spent $167 million on TV ads to paint a smiley face on the once-a-decade head count. Why then do the envelopes used to mail the 98 million Census forms look like they were designed by Big Brother in a bad mood?" writes USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro.

"The envelope says in big black type: 'YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.' Even tax audits and jury-duty notices don't seem this scary when they arrive in the mail. Do the Census bureaucrats really believe that the best way to inspire voluntary participation is to threaten us with hard time in the slammer? (OK, I crumpled up my Census form. Now can I call my lawyer?)"

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