- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2000

The Bush paradox

"The truth is that [John] McCain is now much more likely than [George W.] Bush to defeat" Vice President Al Gore, writes New York Times columnist William Safire.
"The question is whether Bush can change that growing perception in the next few weeks not by tearing down McCain, which would ultimately be self-defeating, but by building up himself," Mr. Safire says.
"The paradox is that Bush has been becoming a better candidate even as his campaign has been getting worse. It's a pleasure to see him grow before our eyes: no more cocky smirks, no fear of being blindsided, no dismaying hesitancy on foreign-policy answers. He needed not just preparation but the shock of personal adversity.
"At the same time, his strategists have evidently decided to win the nomination at the cost of the election. Not only is their heavy tax-cutting a year out of joint, but putting his previously touted compassion in the freezer in favor of pandering to the likes of the [Pat] Robertson power brokers is foolish. In the post-Clinton era, authenticity is in; you can no longer stick your thumb in the moderate eye to capture the so-called 'core' and then hope to lunge back to win the middle."

Clinton heckled on line

Web hecklers had a field day yesterday as President Clinton gave his first live on-line interview a day before a White House computer security meeting.
Although questions submitted to the president in the CNN interview were screened, ribald comments found their way to the media network's Internet site, and at least two under Mr. Clinton's name slipped through a network system designed to filter out "inappropriate" questions, Reuters news agency reported yesterday.
"Personally, I would like to see more porn on the Internet," said one of the comments that scrolled through CNN's on-line chat "auditorium." The remark was in a format that made it look like the president's words.
CNN spokesman Paul Schur said he did not know how the filter was breached, but he said CNN's computer system was not broken into, or "hacked."
Other hecklers chimed in on CNN's electronic message board, referring to Clinton sex scandals. "Can you define 'is' for us yet?" asked one, referring to the president's tortuous explanation of the Monica Lewinsky tryst.

Fund-raising shell game

Hillary Rodham Clinton may have stepped into another campaign-finance minefield as she picked up an award yesterday for her work on the moribund Northern Ireland peace process.
The $500-per-person fund-raiser at the Georgetown home of Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, was for the Irish American Democrats group.
The group's director, Stella O'Leary, told the Associated Press she expected to spend the maximum allowable $10,000 on the first lady's Senate bid.
"This tonight will benefit Hillary's campaign," Miss Bagley told about 100 guests.
The event was billed as an official White House function and at least one White House staffer attended with Mrs. Clinton. Candidates for federal office cannot use official staff for campaign-related events like fund raising.
Mrs. Clinton's campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson maintained that the fund-raiser was for the Irish American Democrats. "We have no control over how they spend their money," he said.

Telling example

"In his new budget, President Clinton has included several initiatives to reduce teen-aged smoking," the Wall Street Journal observes.
"He would raise the federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes by 25 cents; the current tax is 34 cents. In addition, the budget reportedly will propose similar increases for cigars. Most interestingly, though, the president wants to fine tobacco companies $3,000 for each teen-aged smoker if their number isn't halved by 2004," the newspaper said in an editorial.
"We too wish teens would smoke less. But surely Mr. Clinton's idea of imposing federal fines on private companies if the behavior of private individuals isn't altered is an unfortunate but telling example of liberalism's compulsion to control."

Joe Kennedy's cash

Former Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy retired from Congress a year ago, but his substantial campaign fund keeps growing, prompting speculation he may use it to get back into politics, the Associated Press reports.
The fund had $1.4 million when Mr. Kennedy left office, but grew to $2.3 million at the end of last year, thanks mainly to investments in banks and utilities, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.
"It's an interesting pile of money," said Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.
Federal law prohibits converting the money to personal use. Some former lawmakers have become lobbyists, converted their leftover campaign funds into political action committees, then given it out to enhance their lobbying efforts. Mr. Kennedy hasn't done so, and Mr. Makinson doubts he will.
That leaves two other options: Mr. Kennedy can run for something or give it away to charity or other candidates, he said.
Mr. Kennedy isn't commenting on the money or his future plans, but hasn't ruled out seeking office again, reporter Caren Benjamin writes.
The eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy served six terms in the House. He considered running for Massachusetts governor but decided against it in 1997, largely due to bad publicity from his ex-wife's claim that he tried to force her into granting him an annulment.
He announced his retirement from Congress in March 1998, about three months after his brother Michael died in a skiing accident. Mr. Kennedy, 47, now runs Citizens Energy Corp., an organization he helped found in 1979 that provides low-cost heat to the poor and also has several for-profit arms.
Lou DiNatale, a senior fellow with the McCormick Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, thinks Mr. Kennedy "definitely" will run for governor in 2002. He points to an ad for Citizens Energy that he said supports that belief.
"He quits Congress, then he immediately cuts an ad that he's in … talking about giving free heat to poor people. I mean, come on," Mr. DiNatale said.

Baucus off the hook

The former chief of staff for Sen. Max Baucus has abandoned her legal claim that the Montana Democrat sexually harassed her and then fired her last year for turning down his advances.
Christine Niedermeier, 48, said Friday she could not afford the emotional and financial toll that a federal lawsuit would take.
"I now intend, to the extent possible, to put this extremely painful experience behind me and move on with my life and my public service career," she said.
Mr. Baucus, who has strongly denied Miss Niedermeier's allegations and dared her to take him to court, reiterated that stand in a written statement.
"From the beginning, I made it clear that my former chief of staff's accusations were completely false and that I would never settle for anything less than the truth," he said. "I never harassed her or retaliated against her. These are the facts and that's the truth.
In September, Miss Niedermeier claimed that Mr. Baucus, 58 and married, had made repeated sexual advances toward her during the 15 months she was his top aide. She said Mr. Baucus fired her in August for rebuffing those overtures.
Mr. Baucus said he fired her because he faced a revolt by staffers over what they described as Miss Niedermeier's tyrannical management style.

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