- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

Nasty contest

Rep. Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky Republican, holds a small lead over Democrat Scotty Baesler in one of the most closely watched House races in the country, according to a poll sponsored by the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV.

Mr. Fletcher, a first-term congressman, has a 6 percentage-point advantage in the race against Mr. Baesler, a former congressman who hopes to regain the seat, the Herald-Leader reported yesterday.

The poll's overall margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 points.

Gatewood Galbraith, running on the Reform Party ticket, is a distant third with 8 percent. He appears to be having little effect on the outcome," Herald-Leader reporter Peter Baniak writes.

"The survey shows Fletcher with 42 percent of the vote and Baesler with 36 percent. The race could be decided by a relatively small group of undecided voters, who make up just 8 percent of the sample. Although voters were split on the candidates, they agreed on one thing: The race is among the nastiest ever in Central Kentucky."

The new Lieberman

William J. Bennett says he no longer can defend longtime friend and ally Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, after the Democratic vice-presidential candidate backed away from his criticism of Hollywood at a fund-raiser there last week.

Mr. Bennett, a Republican and co-director of Empower America, has worked closely with the Connecticut senator in denouncing sex and violence emanating from Hollywood movies, music and video games aimed at young people.

"Is there any question that Mr. Lieberman has shifted his ground?" Mr. Bennett asked Friday in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, noting that Mr. Lieberman's previous criticism of Hollywood "mutated into lavish praise" at the fund-raiser.

"Since Mr. Gore selected him, Mr. Lieberman has either backed away from, or grown silent on, a number of issues he once addressed: affirmative action, school choice, tort reform, the infamous 1996 White House fund-raising events, the 'immoral' conduct of President Clinton.

"And now he has gone, with muted voice and an open hand, to mansions in Beverly Hills," Mr. Bennett said.

"When the campaign began, I hoped that a kind of tropism would occur. In terms of political integrity and character, I had hoped that Al Gore would become more like my friend Joe Lieberman. Instead, it appears Joe Lieberman has become more, much more, like Al Gore. And for those of us who know and have admired Joe Lieberman, that is a sad thing to behold."

Bush bus crash

The normally well-oiled campaign machinery of the Bush organization hit a small bump Friday when one of three buses carrying the national press corps slammed into another bus in heavy traffic en route to an event in Tampa, Fla.

The incident began when the last bus overheated on the highway, bringing the convoy to a halt by the side of the road. The disabled bus was unable to stop and slammed into the back of the bus in front of it, smashing the front windshield and sending reporters tumbling.

The second bus took on passengers from the disabled bus, but stalled after only a few miles, apparently because of damage caused by the crash.

Dozens of reporters were forced to crowd into the one remaining bus and scurry to Mr. Bush's next event, which already had started by the time the reporters representing the nation's largest TV networks and daily newspapers arrived at the hotel.

It appears no one was seriously injured, although both buses seemed to have suffered considerable damage.

Apartment hunting

President Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is running for the Senate from New York, are looking for a New York City apartment for after the president leaves office in January, the New York Post reported yesterday.

The apartment would serve as a second residence for the Clintons, who purchased a house in suburban Chappaqua last year.

Two possibilities are a two-bedroom condominium apartment on tony Park Avenue, and a three-bedroom on Central Park West. Each is listed at just under $2 million, the Post said.

The Clintons' primary considerations are proximity to Central Park and midtown media outlets, and at least two bedrooms, the report said.

At least one of the apartments is listed by the prestigious Corcoran real estate group, whose chief executive officer, Barbara Corcoran, would not confirm whether the Clintons had checked out her listings. But she called the Park Avenue place "a natural" for them.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign denied to the newspaper the first couple was apartment hunting, saying "it certainly comes as news to Hillary."

Gephardt's 5-year plan

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt says he likes an idea touted by congressional Republicans that would devote 90 percent of the federal surplus to debt reduction, rather than tax cuts.

But the Missouri Democrat, interviewed over the weekend on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields," said he believes the Republican plan is too short-term, since it would be restricted to the next fiscal year.

Asked if he supports applying 90 percent of the surplus to paying down the debt in fiscal 2001, Mr. Gephardt said, "I'd like to have 90 percent over the next five years."

"How about this [coming] year?" co-host Robert Novak asked him.

Mr. Gephardt replied: "I don't know why they only made it for one year. They ought to make it for five years and then let's figure out a sensible budget together."

Reaching out

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat and House minority leader, says he is "optimistic" Democrats will regain the House in November, which means he would be elevated to speaker.

In an interview on CNN, the Democratic leader said he is determined to reach out to centrist Republicans to try to find policies they can agree on.

"Frankly, whoever wins the House next time is going to have a short majority. And we're going to have to work together in a bipartisan way to get things done for the American people," Mr. Gephardt said, adding:

"When I was majority leader [before the 1994 Republican takeover], I'd meet with Bob Michel [who was then House minority leader] most every week, sometimes every day."

But he says there has been "no communication" with Republican leaders in the House during the past six years.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and former Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia are "both fine men," Mr. Gephardt said. "I have nothing against the way they did it. That's their prerogative. But there's no communication. There's no effort to reach out, even to conservative Democrats, to get policies put together that will move the country forward.

"It's 'my way or the highway' every day in every way. That's their prerogative, but I don't think it works."

Getting ready

"Only one will be necessary, but both [Texas Gov.] George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore are beginning to build post-election transition teams," Paul Bedard writes in U.S. News & World Report.

"The kickoff is early October and the initial effort will be penning lists of Cabinet and top White House candidates. Meanwhile, the General Services Administration is spending $4 million to rent Washington office space, telephones, temps, and limos for the eventual winner."

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