- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

Taking issue

Members of Project 21, the black conservative group, were unhappy with the way the network news anchors routinely suggested last week that blacks did not benefit from Ronald Reagan’s policies or that the late president had a poor relationship with blacks.

The group, an initiative of the National Center for Public Policy Research, cited ABC newsman George Stephanopoulos’ remark that Mr. Reagan “did not reach out to African-Americans,” as well as ABC News anchor Peter Jennings‘ comment on the public visitation at the Reagan library: “We haven’t seen many African-American faces.”

Project 21 member Mychal Massie, who waited in line for 5 hours to view Mr. Reagan’s casket in the Capitol Rotunda, said: “It is appalling that the Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaws, Dan Rathers and Sam Donaldsons of the media elite would surrender themselves to such morally opprobrious and vacuous pabulums of untruths and misrepresentations regarding the relationship that the late President Reagan shared with blacks in America.

“Ronald Reagan saw America as a pluralistic whole and worked to address her concerns as such,” Mr. Massie said. “Their jaundiced rhetoric, while beneath contempt, is obviously not out of character for them.”

Project 21 member Gregory Parker added: “Those who say such things are not looking around hard enough. I grew up with him as president, and he was the reason I became a conservative.”

Regarding assertions that Mr. Reagan’s policies did not help blacks, Project 21 member Deroy Murdock said, “Rising employment and opportunities for entrepreneurship helped grow the black middle class during the Reagan years.”

Project 21 member James Coleman added, “Black businesses and businesses owned by women prospered greatly in the ‘80s.”

Pollster vs. pollster

Matthew Dowd, who does the polling for President Bush’s campaign, called last week’s Los Angeles Times poll, which showed John Kerry leading the president 51 percent to 44 percent, a “mess.”

In an e-mail to NBC and ABC, Mr. Dowd said that “Bush is leading independents by three, ahead among Republicans by a larger margin than Kerry is ahead among Dems, and we are down by seven. Outrageous. And it gets worse. They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. This means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points.”

Mickey Kaus, in his Kausfiles column at slate.msn.com, writes, “Who’s right? Ask Governor Gray Davis! OK, that’s a cheap shot. But LAT-watchers have been skeptical of the Times Poll ever since it alone showed Davis closing to a virtual dead heat in the recent California gubernatorial recall — a report that virtually everyone else (including rival campaigns and the rival Field Poll) scoffed at” in the run-up to the recall of Mr. Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.

Vatican politics

An independent Catholic newspaper says President Bush asked a Vatican official to help push U.S. bishops on certain cultural issues, especially homosexual “marriage.”

Mr. Bush made the request during a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, according to an Internet column by the National Catholic Reporter’s correspondent in Rome, John L. Allen Jr.

“Bush said, ‘Not all the American bishops are with me’ on the cultural issues,” Mr. Allen wrote. “The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism.”

Cardinal Sodano did not respond, the columnist said, citing unnamed sources.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the New York Times that “it is just unprecedented for a president to ask for help from the Vatican to get re-elected, and that is exactly what this is.”

However, some with Vatican experience were not shocked.

“Any head of state who goes to the Vatican will attempt to present a case,” said Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, who has served as a translator for Catholic officials with heads of state.

“But if it is done in a diplomatic way, that is why they go to the Vatican anyway,” he said. “It is not an act of devotion. It is a political thing.”

Big ideas

“Second terms are all about legacy building, and plans being drawn up by the White House would make tax and retirement reform the hallmark of another four years for Dubya,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report, citing unnamed “insiders.”

“‘These are big ideas, Reagan-sized ideas,’ says a key adviser. Already, Treasury and congressional Republican leaders are considering a total rewrite of the increasingly complicated tax code, possibly junking it in favor a European-style value-added tax or a flat tax, say officials. It’s part of a larger administration effort to find a replacement for the 1970s-era alternative minimum tax that hits about half of all Americans with added taxes. ‘That study will be the vehicle for bigger changes,’ says an administration official.

“Part 2: President Bush also plans a major push to let Americans put a tiny portion of their Social Security tax into personal stock accounts. But insiders say don’t look for Bush to provide any pre-election details. Instead, says one aide, the prez will use his Republican National Convention speech this summer to ‘paint his ideas in broad strokes.’”

Michigan ruling

A Michigan appeals court has reinstated a petition drive for a ballot proposal to end racial preferences at public universities and other state agencies.

The Michigan Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling that the petition was improperly worded and likely to confuse voters.

The decision removes a major obstacle for the campaign led by Ward Connerly, who championed a successful ballot initiative dismantling most racial preference programs in California.

A spokesman for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the group circulating the petition, said although they are elated by the decision, it might have come too late to salvage the petition drive for the 2004 ballot, the Associated Press reports.

“We may have to switch gears for 2006,” spokesman Chetly Zarko said. “But this gives us a major boost of momentum to continue.”

Jennifer Gratz, the group’s executive director, told the Detroit News that a decision on when the initiative will go forward will be made this week. Racial-preference supporters say they likely will appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

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

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