- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Clinton and Clark

“Former President Bill Clinton, stung by how poor a presidential contender Wesley Clark turned out to be, worked aggressively behind the scenes late last week to pressure John Kerry to pick the retired general as his running mate,” the New York Post’s Fredric U. Dicker reports.

“‘The former president has been calling people, including elected officials in New York, saying that Clark would make a great vice presidential candidate,’ a well-known Democratic activist told the Post.

“‘He’s pushing hard because this is a credibility issue for Clinton, since everybody knows Clark was the guy he created, but yet Clark did so poorly when he ran.’”

Daschle’s numbers

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, was narrowly ahead of his likely Republican challenger in a Rasmussen survey released yesterday.

However, Mr. Daschle’s three-point lead was inside the poll’s 4.5 percentage-point margin of error, United Press International reports.

According to Rasmussen, 48 percent of South Dakota likely voters would re-elect Mr. Daschle if the November election were held today, compared with 45 percent who said they would vote for Republican John Thune.

A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Thune, lost his 2002 Senate bid against incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson by a little more than 500 votes.

The statewide telephone survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Wednesday.

Bush’s numbers

Fifty-one percent of Americans approve of President Bush’s job performance, according to a Gallup Poll released yesterday.

The poll found 51 percent of those surveyed approved and 46 percent disapproved of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job. The results keep Mr. Bush around the 50 percent mark, where he has been for the past month, United Press International reports.

According to Gallup results during the past month, Mr. Bush peaked at 53 percent approval in mid-January and hit a low with 49 percent approval at the end of the month.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,002 adults conducted Feb. 9-12, and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Passionate response

Mel Gibson’s sole big-media interview before the Feb. 25 opening of “The Passion of the Christ,” aired on ABC-TV last night with Diane Sawyer. It revealed little new about the $25 million film, but did include a jab at those who have accused the director of anti-Semitism.

“Critics who have a problem with me don’t really have a problem with me in this film,” he said. “They have a problem with the four Gospels. That’s where their problem is,” in that the Gospels charge Jewish leaders as conspiring to kill the Messiah with the help of an inside agent, Judas.

But the film doesn’t as much lay blame, he said, as tell the story of Christ’s sacrifice. When asked who killed Jesus, Mr. Gibson said, “We all did.” He added: “I’ll be the first in the culpability stakes here,” and indeed, Mr. Gibson’s hands are seen in the film pounding a nail into Christ’s left hand.

The film received rave reviews from a select audience of columnists and politically conservative viewers, including pundit Linda Chavez, Mark Rodgers of the Senate Republican Conference and David Kuo of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, at a private showing last July in Washington.

Civil rights, Cuba style

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker marked the Spanish translation of her novel “Meridian” with a visit to Havana, saying there is a direct correlation between the U.S. civil rights movement and the socialist revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

“I thought about Cuba a lot when I was writing this,” Miss Walker told a packed audience Sunday at an international book fair. “It has meant very much to me that Cubans have understood what I’m doing. Sometimes in my own country, I am very severely criticized by people who don’t bother to read me at all.”

“Meridian,” first published in English in 1976, explores the internal and interpersonal struggles of a young protagonist by the same name who is involved in the U.S. civil rights movement.

“I feel that Meridian understands a very important basic thing, which is that it is very important to choose the people who make up the majority of the planet, to stand with the poor and to stand with people who are struggling, because in the end we will win,” said Miss Walker, 60.

Miss Walker’s appearance at the 13th International Book Fair marks her fifth visit to Cuba, the Associated Press reports. She met with Mr. Castro during two of her previous trips, but said it was unlikely she would get a chance to see him this time.

Honoring Kennan

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is scheduled to be at Princeton University this week for a birthday tribute to George Kennan, the former ambassador and Pulitzer Prize winner.

Mr. Powell, along with political scientists and diplomats from around the world, were invited to celebrate Mr. Kennan’s legacy as the principle architect of the U.S. policy of containment toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Mr. Powell is scheduled to deliver opening remarks Friday to conference attendees and students. Mr. Kennan, who turned 100 yesterday, is too frail to attend, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Kennan, a Princeton graduate and Institute for Advanced Study scholar, wrote two definitive policy papers that formed the basis for the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, framing U.S. strategy toward global resistance to communism after World War II.

Bush pardons ex-mayor

President Bush pardoned a comatose former mayor of Plano, Texas, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 1996.

The Justice Department made the announcement yesterday, according to the Associated Press.

David B. McCall Jr., who is battling cancer and slipped into a coma Thursday, served six months in prison for his role in fraudulent loans at the Plano Savings and Loan Association, which failed in the mid-1980s.

Officials in Plano, a Dallas suburb, earlier this month renamed a downtown plaza in Mr. McCall’s honor for his service as mayor from 1956 to 1960.

Mr. McCall and four other men, including another former Plano mayor, were indicted in August 1995 on charges of creating a web of transactions designed to transfer troublesome loans from one institution to another.

Authorities said they wanted to hide difficulties from bank examiners and relieve borrowers of the need to repay the loans.

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

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