- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Beware of billionaires

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat, fears that the halls of Congress may soon be overrun by billionaires, the New York Times reports.

"There are 450 billionaires in the U.S., and if they fan out across the country, they can consume all of the congressional districts," Mr. Pascrell warned recently.

Mr. Pascrell is a supporter of former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio, who is engaged in a nasty fight with former Goldman Sachs chief Jon S. Corzine to capture the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. The congressman suggested that Mr. Corzine might be a closet billionaire, even though published reports say he is worth a measly $350 million.

Bush, McCain talk

George W. Bush and former presidential rival John McCain talked by phone yesterday for the first time in more than two weeks, but made no immediate plans to meet.

An aide to Mr. McCain, who declined to be identified, told Associated Press writer David Espo that the two talked briefly about the Arizona senator's "reform agenda."

They also talked about getting together, but set no date.

In addition, the aide said Mr. Bush, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, was urged to end any challenges to Mr. McCain's delegates to the party's convention this summer in Philadelphia.

Ari Fleischer, a spokesman for Mr. Bush, said the Texas governor called Mr. McCain from his car "to reach out and to keep in touch and to be in touch." He said Mr. Bush "saw it as a very productive conversation," but declined to provide any details.

Giuliani sinks

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's unsympathetic response to the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man has hurt his standing in the Senate race, at least for the time being.

A Zogby International poll taken after the police slaying of 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond this month shows that Mr. Giuliani's 7-point lead over first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has vanished and that Mrs. Clinton now holds a slim 45 percent to 42.3 percent advantage. Her lead is within the poll's 3.8 percentage points margin of error.

The poll, released Sunday, also shows that the Republican mayor would receive just 28 percent of the vote in the city he leads, down from 44 percent three weeks ago. Mr. Giuliani also tumbled in several key demographic areas, including among upstate voters, Jews and Latinos.

Eighty percent of people said the mayor should have expressed sympathy to Mr. Dorismond's family, and one in four said the issue would be a factor in whether he or she votes for Mr. Giuliani.

Other polls have shown that Mr. Giuliani has as little as 5 percent support among blacks. Observers believe the mayor's hard-edged response to the shooting in which he suggested that Mr. Dorismond was responsible for his own death could spark a large turnout of Democrats in a state in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of about 5-to-3.

"He's handing her the race," pollster John Zogby said. "It's not that she's doing better, it's that he's doing worse. We've seen the tide turn."

Mr. Giuliani, however, brushed aside the poll results Monday at a press conference in Albany, the Associated Press reports.

"I'm absolutely destroyed by it," he joked.

Turning serious, he said: "No. I'm not concerned about it at all. I think that if you've been through tough elections, as I have, you expect to be up in the polls, you expect to be down in the polls, and you expect to be statistically tied in the polls."

Hillary's weak spot

President Hillary Rodham Clinton?

The very notion is helping New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, his allies and conservative groups raise money in their effort to keep her out of the U.S. Senate, notes Associated Press writer Marc Humbert. It's even helping to sell books for former Ronald Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan, he added.

The first lady says there's no truth to the speculation, but some Democrats believe the thought at least crosses her mind.

"This is not just any Senate race… . I expect she will use her Senate seat as a springboard to become a leading Democrat prospect to run for president," Mr. Giuliani said in a recent fund-raising letter to New Yorkers.

The state Republican Party Web site is also raising the issue.

"If she wins in New York it will only be a matter of time before she announces for president… . This is our best chance to stop another Clinton from taking the White House," state GOP Chairman William Powers tells browsers. "Working together we will put an end to Hillary's 'Blind Ambition Tour.' "

In her new book, "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," Wall Street Journal columnist Noonan, who has also done work for Republican Gov. George E. Pataki, makes the same point.

"If she wins in New York and Al Gore loses in the general election, Mrs. Clinton will be first in line in 2004," Mrs. Noonan said in an interview. "And, if Al Gore wins, she'll be very high on line in 2008."

The first lady has repeatedly denied any interest in running for president.

Engine of trouble

"The internal combustion engine may be enjoying the last laugh," the Wall Street Journal says.

"In his 1982 manifesto 'Earth in the Balance,' the father of the Internet declared the internal combustion engine to be a graver threat to civilization than war, and proposed to starve the beast through a global tax on fossil fuels until such time as we realized the 'strategic goal' of 'completely eliminating' it altogether," the newspaper noted in an editorial.

"Cut to election year 2000, a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna this week and prices threatening to break the $2 [per] gallon barrier at the pump. Mr. Gore's green dream is becoming a political nightmare, especially with the vice president on record as opposing two things that might ease the crunch: a rollback of government taxes and the kind of regulations that discourage domestic production."

The newspaper added: "Up to now the luxury of a booming economy has allowed Mr. Gore to indulge his greenest thoughts, whether signing onto U.N. environmental protocols or raising gas taxes to subsidize alternative utopias. Clearly he's got the Greenpeace vote and just maybe the Gwich'in Indians. But we'll see if he's as popular with ordinary Americans after they've had a long, hot summer of [more than] $1.50 [per] gallon at the pump, while Mr. Gore resolutely seals off oceans of oil in the Arctic."

Character first

The American people want an honest president with character, not a reformer, according to a new poll by Fabrizio, McLaughlin.

When the Republican polling firm asked voters last week what was more important to them, a candidate who wants to reform politics and government or a candidate who is honest and has strong character, it was a slam dunk for character and honesty: 73 percent to 17 percent.

Pollster Jim McLaughlin said his poll showed that "voters are still disgusted and angry over the ethical misadventures of Clinton-Gore. It's like the voters are trapped in an elevator with a nasty smell, and all they can do is silently glare at Gore until they reach their floor in November and get some fresh air."

Glass half full

The Washington Post, in a front-page story yesterday, reported what it called "encouraging" news that 42 percent of households have already returned their census forms.

Meanwhile, USA Today, in a front-page story yesterday, reported what it suggested was alarming news that "only 42 percent" of households had returned their census forms so far.

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