- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Ducking out

Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party's candidate for president, says he noticed yesterday that Al Gore's presidential campaign has backed away from its contention on the Gore Web site that George W. Bush refuses to debate.
Mr. Bush this week challenged Mr. Gore to debate in the near future on NBC and CNN, but Mr. Gore has retreated from his earlier offer to debate "any time, any place."
"Al Gore put a clock on the front page of his Web site that counts the days, hours and seconds that George Bush has ducked debates. He calls it the 'Bush Debate Duck,' " Mr. Browne said in a prepared statement.
"[Yesterday], it disappeared from its prominent place on the front page of the campaign Web site. On Thursday, August 24th, Al Gore made national news when he accepted an invitation to appear in a debate sponsored by Judicial Watch. Does this mean Al Gore will duck the American people and avoid debating candidates who will appear on virtually all state ballots?
"I will be on the ballot in all 50 states, plus D.C. What a shame it would be for Al Gore to break his first campaign promise with Election Day still two months away. When it comes to debates, is Al Gore going to be a Debate Duck, too?"

Network jealousy

Executives at ABC and CBS say they would not broadcast presidential debates organized by rival networks CNN and NBC, as proposed by Republican candidate George W. Bush.
Mr. Bush has said he would participate in one of three debates proposed by a national commission and two others suggested by NBC and CNN.
One would match the two contenders in a prime-time version of NBC's Sunday morning talk show "Meet the Press" moderated by Tim Russert. The other would be an edition of Larry King's talk show on CNN.
The Gore campaign has said it would not agree to Mr. Bush's plan unless he also committed to all three commission debates.
"We will not carry another network's programming," said Paul Friedman, executive vice president of ABC News.
CBS, which has proposed a debate for its Sunday morning show "Face the Nation," also would not carry a "Meet the Press" or Larry King debate, spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told the Associated Press.

Stroking the press

President Clinton's top aide gleefully twitted George W. Bush yesterday for insulting a reporter over a live mike, tapping on a microphone and saying, "Is this mike on? You can never be too careful these days."
The jibe by Mr. Clinton's chief of staff, John Podesta, at an event in the White House Rose Garden referred to the Republican presidential nominee's whispered comment about a New York Times reporter Monday that was picked up by a live mike.
Mr. Clinton, who threw back his head and guffawed at Mr. Podesta's joke, could not resist digging the knife in a little deeper, Reuters news agency reports.
"We like all of you," the president told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. Asked earlier if Mr. Clinton had ever used an expletive to describe a reporter, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart paused and then said: "Not in front of an open mike."

Gaffe or genius?

It was an accident Texas Gov. George W. Bush's disparaging remark about a New York Times reporter was caught by a live microphone but it could be good politics.
Because polls show Americans dislike the news media, the Republican presidential candidate's Monday comment to running mate Richard B. Cheney may help him with some voters.
"It may reinforce the doubts that undecided voters have about the news media," Republican campaign strategist Neal Newhouse told Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times.
Although Mr. Bush later said he regretted that his comment "made it to the public airwaves," the Texas governor did not retract his judgment of reporter Adam Clymer as a "major league [expletive]," refusing to apologize to him or the New York Times.
A spokesman for Vice President Al Gore's campaign, meanwhile, was eager to flatter the press: "Al Gore and the Gore campaign hold the members of the fourth estate in very high regard, including those who write for the paper of record, the New York Times."

The race card

"As the November election approaches, a new campaign tactic appears to be emerging from President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore: Energize the traditional base of the Democratic Party by claiming that Senate Republicans are biased against minorities nominated for federal judgeships," writes Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
"This coordinated overture to minority voters by the White House and the Gore campaign is unseemly, even by the standards of the Clinton-Gore administration. While Republicans seek to unite America, the Democrats seem intent on generating racial divisions," Mr. Hatch said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
"The Constitution provides that the president shall have the power to nominate judges to federal courts with the 'advice and consent' of the Senate. Senators from the state where the judgeship is located are the ones who usually exercise the power to oppose nominees, since they represent the citizens who will be subject to the decisions of that nominee. Historically, the disapproval of a particular nominee by a home-state senator has been considered as all but dispositive by other senators.
"The result is that the White House historically has consulted with home-state senators about who the president will nominate for federal judgeships in their state. In recent weeks, Mr. Clinton has revealed his determination to play politics in this election season by nominating numerous minorities for federal judgeships without consulting home-state senators, knowing full well that because of the lack of consultation the nominees have little chance of being confirmed."

Primary roundup

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas fought to avoid a runoff as nine challengers sought to deny him a second term yesterday after months of tumult over the Elian Gonzalez case.

With 44 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Penelas had 51 percent of the vote to his nearest rival's 21 percent. He needs a majority to avoid a runoff.

Also in Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Bill McCollum won nominations for the open Senate seat, with 78 percent and 82 percent of the vote, respectively. This sets up a close race of national import for the seat of Republican Sen. Connie Mack, who is retiring.

In Nevada, former Republican Rep. John Ensign swiftly won the Republican primary for an open Senate seat, defeating two little-known candidates. In the fall, he will face Las Vegas lawyer Ed Bernstein, who had no Democratic primary opposition.

Tough lady

Richard B. Cheney, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, thinks he has found a secret weapon for the fall campaign.
Speaking at a senior citizens' center yesterday in Allentown, Pa., Mr. Cheney introduced Doris Nonnemaker, a city resident in her 80s who supports the Republicans' prescription drug plan.
"To give you some idea just how strong this woman is, within the last year she was the victim of a mugging attack," Mr. Cheney told the gathering. "She refused to give up her purse. In fact, she used it to beat off her attackers."
When the applause subsided, Mr. Cheney added, "I'm trying hard to get Doris to travel with me over the next two months."

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