- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001

Barbra's big idea

Barbra Streisand, the self-styled ideology czar of the Democratic Party, wants rich liberals to join her in purchasing a cable TV network that would become a Republican-free zone, Gloria Borger writes in U.S. News & World Report.

Ms. Streisand made the proposal earlier this month in a meeting at her home with Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat and House minority leader, as well as Norman Lear, Warren and Annette Beatty, and other liberals. At that same meeting, she read her three-page memo sent to Democratic members of Congress in which she castigated them for being too mean to Bill Clinton and too nice to George W. Bush.

"In addition to the memo, Streisand also lets it be known that she's mad at (a) Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, who voted for the Bush tax cut, (b) the eight Democrats who voted for John Ashcroft for attorney general, and (c) all Democrats who refused to defend Bill Clinton," the columnist said.

"She's so mad, in fact, that sources tell me she wants to put together a group of Democrats to buy a cable-TV network so they don't have to watch Republican talking heads. 'Everybody told her it was nuts,' says one well-informed source. Too bad. Because it's truly an inspired idea a Coffee Tawk network a la 'Saturday Night Live.' (Today's topic: The Democrats and The Way We Were. Better? Or worse? Discuss amongst yourselves.) Bill O'Reilly, eat your heart out."

Off the map

"After lavishing attention on California in the presidential campaign, President Bush appears to have relegated the state to political purgatory, reflecting his advisers' judgment that he cannot win here in 2004," New York Times reporter Richard L. Berke writes from San Francisco.

"Since taking office, Mr. Bush has traveled to 25 states but has yet to venture into California, the nation's most populous. In contrast, Bill Clinton made eight visits to the state in his first year as president," the reporter said.

"Nor is California even penciled into Mr. Bush's engagement book. 'My suspicion is that it will be somewhat later in the year,' Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political aide, said when asked about such a trip. 'You start by protecting your base, the states and groups that came with you. That's why the president went, for example, to West Virginia and why we've been to Florida.'

"While he insisted that it was 'premature for any Democrat to crow that Bush is somehow writing off California,' Mr. Rove's comments were a tacit admission that the White House has no intention of devoting special attention to California, if much attention at all."

Torricelli's woes

Sen. Robert Torricelli, whose finances are being investigated by federal prosecutors, said yesterday that the probe illustrates "what's wrong" with election finance laws.

The New Jersey Democrat said that the investigation of his personal and political finances has been "very difficult," and that he is trying to be cooperative "in every way that is reasonable."

But he said the emphasis in politics on raising big sums of money has helped create an environment ripe for such problems.

"I think it's an example of what's wrong with campaign fi-

nance laws," said Mr. Torricelli, chairman of Senate Democrats' political and fund-raising arm during the 2000 election cycle.

"These campaigns and the rush to raise so much money bring you in touch with so many people you don't really know," Mr. Torricelli said on NBC's "Meet the Press," noting some questioned why he would raise money from a man who turned out to be a French citizen.

Seven persons have pleaded guilty to making illegal donations to the 1996 campaign of then-Rep. Torricelli in his bid to move to the Senate. Mr. Torricelli has said he had no knowledge of illegal contributions and does not expect to be indicted.

"My own guess is that, in a matter of weeks or a couple of months … this matter passes," he said.

Asked about reports that his residence was searched by investigators, Mr. Torricelli said investigators were escorted through his residence by his attorneys "to assure them that there are no other documents, no other papers."

"We are trying to be cooperative with this, in every way that is reasonable," he said. "We've provided thousands of pages of information. This has gone on for a very long time."

Punishing Jeffords

"In his first 80 days, Mr. Bush has shown that he has more than enough charm to be successful," Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot writes.

"Everyone outside of John McCain's media orbit seems to like him. He's hit nearly all the right personal notes a Rose Garden tribute for cancer-stricken Democratic Rep. Joe Moakley, and social invitations and trips on Air Force One for key members of Congress. If Washington were a fraternity, Mr. Bush would be rush chairman," Mr. Gigot said.

"The doubt that remains is whether Mr. Bush is also tough in the clinches. Can you cross him and get away with it? …"

The columnist nominates Sen. James Jeffords, the Vermont Republican who joined Democrats in chopping the Bush tax cut, as a worthy candidate for a presidential comeuppance.

"LBJ would know how to respond: Don't get mad publicly, get even privately. Mr. Jefford's choices for U.S. attorney and federal judgeships would get overlooked. His special-ed hobby horse would move far down the spending-priority list. Above all, Vermont's precious northeast dairy compact would be headed for extinction."

Ventura's job rating

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's job-approval rating has fallen from a near-record high to its second-lowest level since he was elected two years ago, according to a poll conducted by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

Fifty-seven percent of Minnesotans surveyed approve of the way the pro wrestler-turned-governor does his job, down 14 points from a poll conducted in January. That's only slightly higher than the 54 percent rating he received in October 1999, when the figure reached its lowest point of his tenure.

The new poll was conducted after the Star Tribune published an interview in which Mr. Ventura, a former Navy Seal, compared his war experiences to hunting.

"Until you've hunted man, you haven't hunted yet, because you need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter," Mr. Ventura told the newspaper's conservation writer.

The 1999 dip followed the publication of a Playboy magazine interview in which Mr. Ventura said: "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people." Later, Mr. Ventura said he meant only some organized religion.

The latest drop in the rating could also be related to debate over the governor's proposed budget, which has been criticized for its education spending and proposed expansion of the state sales tax to most services.

"Given the pounding he's been getting from the special-interest groups over his budget, I think it's remarkable that he has maintained a 57 percent approval rating," said Ventura spokesman John Wodele.

Wide approval

President Bush wins wide approval for his handling of the Chinese hostage crisis, Newsweek reports.

Sixty-nine percent of those polled by the magazine backed Mr. Bush's actions, although Americans were split on whether an earlier expression of regret would have won earlier release of the military plane's crew. Forty-four percent said the crew would have been released sooner, while 45 percent said no.

Fifty-one percent expected only short-term damage in future relations between the nations, while 22 percent said there will be long-term damage.

The survey also found that Mr. Bush's job-approval rating was holding steady at 57 percent.

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