- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

Road to apostasy

About an hour after Sen. Lincoln Chafee informed Vice President Richard B. Cheney on Monday that he would be the only Republican senator to vote against the budget that includes President Bush's tax cut, the Rhode Island liberal sat down to explain himself to USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro.

Mr. Chafee "sat with his hands clenched nervously as he described his path to apostasy," the columnist said.

"It began in early December when Cheney, in a meeting with the small band of moderate GOP senators, stressed that Bush was not going to compromise on taxes. 'I knew right there that this was going to be divisive,' Chafee recalls. 'I knew this was going to be a hot one.'

"But Chafee, who supports a far more limited tax cut and increased spending for special education and mass transit, never anticipated that he would be the lone Republican standing for fiscal restraint. He admits that even some of his staffers, with long Capitol Hill experience, have asked him, 'Do you know what you're doing?' And while no explicit threats have been made by GOP leaders, Chafee wonders aloud: 'Are they going to take away my chairmanships that I have on my little subcommittees? That's all part of the arguments, the retribution and the disappointment that might be there on this vote.' "

Anti-tax cut ad blitz

One of the nation's largest unions is starting a campaign-style effort to persuade senators in several states to oppose President Bush's tax-cut plan.

It is expected to be the first of several by unions and other special interest groups to mobilize union supporters and others against Mr. Bush's $1.6 trillion, 10-year proposal, the Associated Press reports.

Television and radio ads by the Service Employees International Union are to begin airing today in Vermont, Maine, Louisiana and Georgia. They are timed to coincide with next week's start of congressional recess.

"The message has gotten through that this tax cut is not evenly divided," said the union's president, Andrew Stern.

The television spots were scheduled for Maine and Vermont, while radio ads were to run in Louisiana and Georgia. They target Republican James M. Jeffords and Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, both of Vermont; Maine Republicans Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins; Georgia Democrats Max Cleland and Zell Miller; and Louisiana Democrats John B. Breaux and Mary L. Landrieu.

Miss Collins, Mr. Cleland and Mrs. Landrieu are up for re-election in 2002. Mr. Breaux is leading an effort by centrist Democrats to shrink Mr. Bush's tax cut to $1.25 trillion.

The union would not say how much it was spending.

The ads state that Mr. Bush's plan would give 43 percent of the cut to the wealthiest 1 percent and "raids the Medicare trust fund to pay for it, leaving nothing for a real prescription drug benefit or for health care."

Viewers and listeners are urged to call their senators to tell them "to protect Medicare and vote against the Bush tax plan."

Meanwhile, a "national day of action" to oppose Mr. Bush's tax cut is set for Wednesday by the Fair Taxes for All Coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO and more than 500 groups such as the National Urban League, Sierra Club, National PTA and United Church of Christ.

Bittersweet victory

"How to get attention for your languishing tax-cut plan? Try slipping it into a 'West Wing' episode," Newsweek says.

"That's what the Congressional Progressive Caucus did when its American People's Dividend proposal, a $300 rebate for all working Americans, failed to gain traction in the House and Senate or in the media," the magazine said.

"At a strategy dinner about a month ago, California Rep. Barbara Lee suggested that the hit show's executive producer, Lawrence O'Donnell, a former staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, might find the plan interesting. Lee called O'Donnell, and what do you know: In an upcoming scene the progressives get a nod, says a 'West Wing' spokeswoman. But it's a bittersweet victory for the caucus, which has seen its rebate co-opted by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, without credit. That's fodder for another episode."

Kinder, gentler Sheen

Actor Martin Sheen, who portrays a liberal Democratic president on NBC's "The West Wing," now says he supports "whoever is in that office."

In February, Mr. Sheen lashed out at President Bush, saying he "is like a bad comic working the crowd, a moron, if you'll pardon the expression."

However, in an interview on Tuesday's "Tonight Show," Mr. Sheen declined to bash Mr. Bush when host Jay Leno suggested that the actor seemed "very antagonistic" toward the president.

"I'm not antagonistic," Mr. Sheen said. "I'll tell you frankly, it was a real hard loss I mean for us that had worked for Mr. Gore and had been, you know, so active with Mr. Clinton and that administration."

Mr. Leno: "But do you get behind the new president?"

Mr. Sheen: "Listen, you know, to be president of the United States, there is no more difficult job. Look what's going on right now. I wouldn't want the job and I support whoever is in that office. I support the office, but it's still difficult to let go of what we had."

European hot air

"Even if the Kyoto accords didn't deserve dumping in and of themselves, it would have been worth doing just for the pleasure of watching Europe go bananas," Mark Steyn writes in the London Sunday Telegraph.

" 'Mark yesterday's date,' wrote Geoffrey Lean in the Evening Standard. 'It is no exaggeration to say that 28 March 2001 may prove to be one of the most important days in the history of the world.' Michael Meacher thought it could lead to the planet becoming 'uninhabitable.' John Gummer called it an assault on European sovereignty (whatever that is). Globally warming to his theme, he decided he wasn't going to have Yankee imperialism shoved down his throat… . 'We are not going to allow our climate to be changed by somebody else,' he roared, threatening an international trade war against the United States. You go, girl! Why not refuse to sell the Yanks your delightful British beef? …

"Maybe there really is global warming. And maybe the 4.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases we humans generate is responsible for it, as opposed to the 95.5 per cent generated by nature. But, as long as the U.N. and others substitute hot air for hard science, Bush is right to suspect it's eco-bunk."

China's 'buzzing'

The Navy and Air Force told the Clinton administration in December that Chinese fighter jets had begun a systematic campaign of "buzzing" dangerously close to U.S. planes and ships in waters near China as early as a year ago, but officials failed to brief Congress, WorldNetDaily.com reports.

The provocations started in April 2000 and got closer and closer, congressional sources told reporter Paul Sperry, but the Pentagon did not formally complain to the White House until December out of respect for its ongoing "strategic partnership" with China.

"The Clinton administration wanted to keep all this quiet, which they did," a senior Senate aide told the reporter on the condition of anonymity. "They never told the Congress."

Challenger for Davis

Mosemarie Boyd, who heads a group pushing for a female president, announced yesterday that she will challenge California Gov. Gray Davis in the Democratic primary next year.

The co-founder of the Sacramento-based American Women Presidents said she is running because the governor's job is in "the political pipeline to the presidency, and we need more women in these positions."

Miss Boyd, who was assistant to the chief of the oil and gas division at the World Bank in 1995, said her campaign will emphasize Mr. Davis' handling of the state energy crisis.

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