- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2003

Scheduling conflicts

“Early this year, Sen. John Edwards loudly announced his opposition to legislation that, he warned, could open the door to new off-shore oil drilling,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“But when a move to block the measure came up in the Senate this month, the North Carolina Democrat was not there. He was in Tennessee, campaigning for president,” reporter Richard Simon writes.

“Edwards’ tally would have made no difference; his side lost by 10 votes. But his absence that day is illustrative of the growing scheduling dilemma facing him and three other Senate Democrats running for president — Bob Graham of Florida, John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. …

“Through Tuesday, Kerry has missed 43 percent of the 242 votes taken in the Senate; Lieberman, 29 percent; Edwards, 19 percent; and Graham, 17 percent. Excluded from these figures were votes missed by Graham and Kerry due to surgeries they underwent earlier this year.”

Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, another Democrat running for president, has missed 89 percent of 311 House votes this year through Tuesday, the newspaper said. Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, by contrast, has maintained a perfect attendance record despite his entry into the Democratic presidential contest.

‘Silly and farfetched’

There is simply no reason to take retired Gen. Wesley Clark seriously as a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes. “No reason at all.”

Mr. Clark apparently wants to be drafted into the race, like Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, Mr. Rothenberg said in Roll Call.

“Clark’s ideal scenario is as follows: When the Democratic race fails to produce a clear front-runner this summer, party leaders and grass-roots activists start looking for a fresh face who can neutralize President Bush’s advantage on defense and foreign-policy issues. That’s when they turn to Clark, who has no domestic record to defend and can take on Bush on Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It’s an entertaining scenario, even if it is silly and farfetched. While Clark is a former Rhodes scholar and, like Ike, a former NATO supreme commander, he simply isn’t Eisenhower. Not even close.”

Cheap shots

“Thirteen months ago, Senator Hillary Clinton rose on the Senate floor to demand answers to questions about what President Bush knew about the September 11 attacks before those attacks occurred,” Hugh Hewitt writes at the Weekly Standard Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“Dick Gephardt (then minority leader in the House) echoed the demand, asking ‘what the president and what the White House knew about events leading up to 9/11, when they knew it, and most importantly, what was done about it at the time.’ The Notebook editors at the New Republic couldn’t resist a little second-guessing of their own — directed at Attorney General John Ashcroft’s post-attack request for a higher budget for counterterrorism: ‘Someone should ask why he didn’t mobilize some of those resources beforehand,’ scolded the magazine in its June 17, 2002, issue.

“It’s a year later and leading Democrats are again throwing bricks at the president’s handling of intelligence. So is the NewRepublic. But this time the charge is that the president overestimated the threat to American security posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. A year ago he was too cold. Now he’s too hot. The Democrats and their allies want the president to be just right.”

Mr. Hewitt, who hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, added: “It appears as though the public has already concluded that the attacks on Bush of this spring are like the attacks on Bush of last spring — partisan cheap-shots of the worst sort since they concern national security. I think a good majority of the electorate has also come to an intuitive understanding of the key concept: It is OK to overestimate a threat, but, since September 11, it is never OK to underestimate one.”

Split verdict

A majority of New Yorkers think President Bush will win a second term in 2004, but a nearly similar percentage predict that his Democratic challenger will capture the state, according to a statewide poll released yesterday.

The president’s approval rating among New Yorkers was at 52 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll, down from 58 percent in April. The survey also found that Mr. Bush leads all his potential Democratic opponents, but 57 percent of New Yorkers say a Democrat will win New York in November.

Asked if Mr. Bush will be re-elected, 59 percent of the New York voters surveyed said yes.

“New Yorkers split on how they intend to vote and how they think their neighbors will vote,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Conn.-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The picture changes slightly should New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton end up as the Democratic presidential candidate. She and Mr. Bush tied at 47 percent among New York voters. The former first lady has said she will not run for the White House in 2004, but has not ruled out a race later on.

Should Mrs. Clinton seek the presidency next year, 45 percent of New York Democrats said they favored her for the party’s nomination. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, at 13 percent, was second, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was at 10 percent. No other Democrat breaks into double digits in the poll when Mrs. Clinton is in the mix, the Associated Press reports.

Without Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Lieberman leads the Democratic pack in New York, at 23 percent; followed by Mr. Kerry, at 14 percent; and New York’s Al Sharpton, at 11 percent. All other Democratic contenders are in single digits.

Among all New York voters, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Lieberman, 49 percent to 43 percent; and tops Mr. Kerry, 48 percent to 43 percent.

Bias virus

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, never afraid to pick a fight, accused The Washington Post yesterday of misleading readers about his prescription-drug bill.

A story in yesterday’s Post featured low-income seniors struggling to pay their prescription-drugs bills. Mr. Thomas said he read the entire Post article and that “nowhere in that story” did it say that his bill would actually cover such impoverished seniors.

The people in question would pay no premiums, no deductibles and would not be subject to a gap in coverage, he said. All they would have to pay is a $2 co-pay for generic drugs and a $5 co-pay for prescription drugs.

So bad was the front-page story — datelined from Cleveland — that Mr. Thomas lumped the paper in with the New York Times, recently exposed for printing outright fabrications.

The “virus,” he said during a press conference, that “attacked The New York Times has apparently migrated down the coast.”

Right all along?

Ed Gillespie, who is acting as a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee while he waits to become party chairman next month, took a shot at Howard Dean and other Democratic presidential candidates yesterday.

“Democratic presidential candidates continue to find political expedience in appealing to the antiwar activists in their party. Howard Dean positions his opposition to the war as an act of ‘political courage’ and says he was ‘right all along,’ and other presidential contenders are following his lead,” Mr. Gillespie said in a prepared statement.

“But what are they ‘right all along’ about? Their policy is this: When presented with the widely shared conclusion that a dictator with a history of using weapons of mass destruction is developing more, in defiance of an international order, the United States will not act until after such weapons have been used — perhaps, even, against us.

“That is a policy destined for failure, or worse, tragedy.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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