- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Specter and Kerry

The Club for Growth, which likes to target liberal Republicans, made fun of Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday for asking the Federal Election Commission to rein in the conservative group, whose latest ad compares Mr. Specter to Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry.

Mr. Specter, who is engaged in a fierce Republican primary fight in Pennsylvania against conservative Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, filed a complaint charging that the Club for Growth had coordinated advertising with the Toomey campaign, in violation of free-speech restrictions passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.

“The Club for Growth was exercising its right to inform the people of Arlen Specter’s dismal record on taxes and fiscal issues,” Club for Growth President Stephen Moore said in a prepared statement. “The record shows clearly that Specter and John Kerry vote together about two-thirds of the time. Specter has an exceedingly liberal voting record.

“Further, it is an act of desperation for a four-term U.S. senator to be complaining about a truthful 30-second television ad. Sen. Specter seems to have had a temporary bout of Mad Dean Disease.”

Comparing Mr. Specter’s voting record to that of Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, the narrator says: “He voted for eight huge tax hikes. He supports greedy trial lawyers instead of doctors on legal reform. He’s blocked school choice education programs. And he’s rated one of the Senate’s most wasteful spenders. John Kerry? No, Arlen Specter. Fact is, nearly 70 percent of the time, Specter and Kerry voted the same way. And that makes Arlen Specter 100 percent too liberal.”

Four’s a crowd

“As the political world comes careering toward the critical March 2 primaries, two things are apparent,” New York Times editorialist Gail Collins writes.

• “There are only two candidates for the Democratic nomination.

• “There will not be any debates featuring only two candidates.

“Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton are planning to tag along anywhere John Kerry and John Edwards go that features a stage and a TV camera. [Tonight’s] debate in California will include all four candidates, giving primary voters still more valuable insights into the priorities of a Kucinich or Sharpton presidency. Next Sunday’s debate in New York, co-sponsored by CBS News and the New York Times, will have the same cast of characters.

“Now this is probably not the central issue in American democracy. Get too worked up over marginal candidates’ crowding the debates and you’ll wind up sounding like one of those people who kept complaining that the new millennium didn’t really begin until Jan. 1, 2001,” the writer said.

“Still, there’s the irritation factor. The American public has a very limited appetite for political coverage, and some people are using up way more than their share.”

Disappointed panel

The federal commission reviewing the September 11 attacks expressed disappointment yesterday with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for refusing to testify in public.

“Although we have met privately with Dr. Rice, we believe the nation would be well-served by the contribution she can make to public understanding of the intelligence and policy issues being examined by the commission,” the 10-member panel said in a statement.

The bipartisan commission also urged President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to talk to the full commission instead of just the chairman and vice chairman, the Associated Press reports.

Johnson’s surgery

Sen. Tim Johnson said yesterday he has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery next week to have his prostate removed.

The 57-year-old South Dakota Democrat said he is “feeling great” and his doctors think they have caught the disease early and that he will recover.

“Following surgery, I will be in the hospital for a few days, but then should feel progressively better. I can expect a complete recovery six weeks after that,” he said.

Mr. Johnson began his second Senate term in January 2003.

‘Runaway’ prosecutor

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay characterized Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle on Tuesday as a “runaway district attorney” for the widening investigation into campaign fund raising that helped elect a Republican majority to the Texas House in 2002.

Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican, criticized Mr. Earle over the investigation of a DeLay-formed group, Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, at his weekly news conference in Washington, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

“This is nothing more than a vindictive, typical Ronnie Earle process,” Mr. DeLay said. “The district attorney has a long history of being vindictive and partisan. He did it to Kay Bailey Hutchison and lost that case. He’s done it to other people so that he can get press but doesn’t follow through and file charges. This is so typical. This is an attempt to criminalize politics, and we have a runaway district attorney in Texas.”

Mr. Earle said Tuesday that he was just doing his job.

“Being called vindictive and partisan by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog,” Mr. Earle said in a telephone interview.

“My job is to prosecute felonies. Texas law makes it a felony for corporations and labor unions to contribute to campaigns,” Mr. Earle said.

Kerry’s big lead

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has a 60 percent to 19 percent lead in California over his closest Democratic rival, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, according to a poll released yesterday.

The state holds its presidential primary next week, one of 11 states taking part in Super Tuesday.

A Field Poll of 958 registered voters also found that 53 percent of California voters would back Mr. Kerry in a matchup against President Bush, with 41 percent backing the incumbent.

Mr. Bush’s approval rating in the state had sunk to 43 percent, down from 52 percent a month earlier and the lowest level since before the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Forgotten Tuesday

If next week’s lineup of presidential nominating contests is known as Super Tuesday, then perhaps the three electoral events that took place earlier this week could be called Forgotten Tuesday.

But this column never forgets. So, for the record, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, easily won the Utah primary and caucuses in Idaho and Hawaii on Tuesday.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in Utah, Mr. Kerry won 55 percent of the primary vote against 30 percent for Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. With 100 percent of precincts reporting in the Idaho caucuses, Mr. Kerry beat Mr. Edwards by 54 percent to 22 percent.

And with 99 percent of precincts reporting in Hawaii’s caucuses, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio captured second place with 30 percent of the vote, his highest finish yet. Mr. Kerry won with 46 percent of the vote, and Mr. Edwards limped in with 13 percent.

Only 61 delegates were at stake on Tuesday: 20 in Hawaii, 18 in Idaho and 23 in Utah.

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

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