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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 29, 2004

News from Tokyo

"So I come to Tokyo to get away from it all, and what do I discover, but more bad news for the John Kerry campaign," New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes.

"Not only does the U.S. economy appear to be headed for at least a burst of recovery around election time, but so does the world's second-largest economy, Japan, which should also help buoy the U.S. recovery. It's more evidence, to me, that Mr. Kerry may have to run in the most difficult of all environments and exactly the opposite of the one Democrats had hoped for: an environment where the U.S. economy is rebounding, and Iraq is reeling."

Kerry's claim

"Sen. John F. Kerry has claimed twice in recent days that since he effectively claimed the Democratic presidential nomination, he has not run a negative television advertisement against President Bush. But those viewing his ads in March and April could be pardoned for thinking otherwise," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Mr. Kerry told a crowd in Cleveland on Tuesday, "My campaign is just beginning. We haven't run a negative ad on [Mr. Bush]."

Late last week, the Democratic presidential candidate told newspaper editors meeting in Washington, "I'm going to try and change the discussion and just tell the truth to the American people. I never ran one negative advertisement against my opponents in the primaries, and I haven't run negative advertising. My advertisements in this race are positive."

But reporter Nick Anderson found that "five of the TV commercials Kerry has aired since he became the presumed Democratic nominee in early March have named and criticized Bush. One ad responded to a Bush attack, another contrasted Bush's record on jobs with Kerry's proposals to improve the economy, and three criticized Bush on the environment, abortion rights and the economy. That's not counting several ads assailing Bush financed by liberal groups that operate separately from the Kerry campaign."

Sharpton speech

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has invited the Rev. Al Sharpton to speak at the party's national convention in Boston.

In an interview with Black Entertainment Television that aired last night, the Massachusetts senator said Mr. Sharpton, who also sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, should speak at the convention.

"If he wants to do it, I'd like him to do it. I think he'd do a terrific job. I think he'll add something," Mr. Kerry said. "That's my call."

Mr. Kerry also praised Mr. Sharpton for helping energize Democratic voters, saying, "He certainly earned the right to be part of this process, and I think he can be very, very helpful in motivating people, in helping to register people."

Parting shot

Sen. Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat who has become increasingly disgusted with his party as well as the way the U.S. Senate has operated the past few years, figures it's time for a major shake-up in how senators are chosen.

This week, he proposed legislation to repeal the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which in 1913 removed the selection of senators from state legislatures, as the original Constitution called for, and gave it to the voters.

Mr. Miller, the former governor of Georgia who is retiring rather than seeking re-election this year, said the 17th Amendment disrupted the careful balance between the states and the federal government. The effect, he said, has been to create a legislative body responsive only to special interests.

"Make no mistake about it: It is the special-interest groups and their fund-raising power that elect U.S. senators and then hold them in bondage forever," he said.

His legislation comes less than a week after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, indicated that he, too, thought the 17th Amendment was a bad move.

"I am willing to have a debate that electing senators by popular vote has had a very real negative impact on this country," Mr. DeLay said last week during a debate over how the House should reconstitute itself after a catastrophic attack.

Still, Mr. DeLay's office said he has no plans to pursue repealing the amendment.

Pelosi pledge I

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, chastised Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, yesterday for omitting the words "under God" while leading the House in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday.

"All House Democrats expect the Pledge of Allegiance to be delivered as it is written with the phrase 'under God' and with respect for the Pledge," Mrs. Pelosi said, adding that she summoned Mr. McDermott to her office Wednesday to express her displeasure privately.

Leaders of the congressional parties rarely chastise a member of their rank and file publicly, but Mrs. Pelosi spoke bluntly.

"What I am saying to you is, I completely disagree with that presentation. I have made my view and the view of the House Democrats known to Congressman McDermott, and I don't think you will ever see again a presentation on the floor that will exclude the words 'under God,' " she told the Associated Press.

Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas Republican, accused Mr. McDermott of "embarrassing the House and disparaging the majority of Americans who share the values expressed in the Pledge."

McDermott spokesman Mike DeCesare said his boss learned the Pledge without the phrase "under God." The two words have been in the Pledge since 1954; Mr. McDermott was born in 1936.

But Mr. DeCesare also added that Mr. McDermott was unsure of whether to include the words at a time when the Supreme Court is reviewing a lower court ruling that recitation of the Pledge in public schools is unconstitutional because of its reference to God.

Pelosi pledge II

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says that as a Catholic she intends to keep taking Communion regardless of what guidelines U.S. Roman Catholic bishops set.

"I fully intend to receive Communion one way or another -- it's very important to me," said Mrs. Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, when asked yesterday about a U.S. bishops' task force mulling the role of Catholic politicians.

A Vatican official said last week that priests should deny Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, although Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington who is leading the U.S. task force, has said he doesn't want to go that far.

Mrs. Pelosi said she was concerned about the church trying to "sanction people in public office for speaking their conscience and what they believe," although she admitted that the issue of abortion has split even her family.

"I was raised in a very devout, Italian Catholic home, and my views, my pro-choice views, are not shared by every member of my family, so I know this issue well," she said. "But I believe my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has a responsibility to live their lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end."

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