- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas — Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who is using former President Bill Clinton to raise money in the fight against President Bush, has also enlisted numerous Clinton administration officials to criticize Mr. Bush on an almost daily basis.

On Monday, the DNC arranged for Gene Sperling, Mr. Clinton's economic adviser, to critique the Bush budget during a conference call with reporters. During a similar call last week, Mr. Sperling was joined by Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri, a former spokeswoman for Mr. Clinton.

A few days earlier, the conference call was led by Mr. Sperling and Jack Lew, Mr. Clinton's director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. The purpose of that call was to criticize Mr. Bush's handling of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Hours before the president gave his televised address to the nation on federal funding of stem-cell research on Aug. 9, the DNC arranged a conference call with Harold Varmis, who directed the National Institutes of Health under Mr. Clinton. Mr. Varmis, chairman of the Clinton Commission on Stem Cell Research, was joined by Mr. Podesta and Miss Palmieri.

"Here at the DNC, we have a very aggressive surrogate program," explained DNC communications director Maria Cardona. "That includes reaching out daily to a very comprehensive surrogate list that includes all former Clinton administration officials, former Cabinet secretaries, senior aides to Cabinet secretaries, senior aides to the former White House."

Trent Duffy, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said the use of Clinton officials as surrogates demonstrates "that this is very much Bill Clinton's party. And Terry McAuliffe is just strengthening his grip in making this Bill Clinton's party."

Mr. McAuliffe, who is Mr. Clinton's best friend, has recently come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats for his superheated rhetoric against Mr. Bush. Earlier this week, Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat, likened Mr. McAuliffe's rhetoric to "nails on a chalkboard."

Yesterday, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Miller's remarks suggest a rift in the Democratic Party.

"There are those more moderate members of the Democratic Party that want to work with the president, want to get things done for the American people," Mr. McClellan, deputy White House press secretary, told The Washington Times. "And then there are the more liberal, partisan elements that continue to hold on to the ways of the past."

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh yesterday said Mr. McAuliffe's "behavior is starting to irritate a number of powerful Democrats." The influential conservative said Mr. Miller's remarks might embolden other Democrats to speak out against Mr. McAuliffe.

Mr. Limbaugh called the DNC leader "a mean-spirited, simple-minded punk. And he's there because Bill Clinton runs this party, the Democratic Party. And he's there, McAuliffe is, to do Clinton's bidding."

Miss Cardona said the strong reaction of Mr. Limbaugh "just shows that our message is working, that we are succeeding in our goal of getting our message out, and it is just absolutely driving the Republicans crazy."

"We're getting under their skin," she said. "They know that we're right and they know they're in political peril — that's why it's driving them nuts."

Some Republicans privately acknowledge the daily barbs from Mr. McAuliffe and other Clinton associates are sometimes effective. But one Republican operative complained that the old Clinton team represents the Democratic Party's "whole brain trust."

"I think to some extent it's a reflection of the lack of talent on their side if that's the only place they have to go," said the Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But then there's also a logic to it because these are the folks who manned the war room for the past eight years and they don't want to get out of war room mode."

Mr. Duffy said no prominent Democrat has stepped forward to replace Mr. Clinton and his team as the party's leadership.

"Because they do not have a leader, Terry McAuliffe is filling the vacuum and that may or may not be a good thing for Democrats," Mr. Duffy said. "You know, most people's conventional wisdom is that if Gore had not been tied with Clinton, he might be the president.

"So the risk that they run is that they don't shed the Clinton shadow — and not only not shed it, but embrace it," he said. "I mean, the Clinton team is alive and well, and ready to go at a moment's notice."

Miss Cardona said it is "completely unfair" for Republicans to claim that the DNC's extensive use of Clinton officials as surrogates demonstrates "a lack of knowledgeable people that hold office right now" in the Democratic Party.

"These people not only have incredible expertise in their fields, but have gone through this," she said. "They know firsthand the way these things work. So of course we would use them."

She explained that the Clinton team is being used to "amplify" the message of elected Democrats.

Noticeably absent from the list of surrogates is former Vice President Al Gore and his top advisers.

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