- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Tricky new world

"It's hard to be a Democrat in Washington," Gloria Borger writes in U.S. News & World Report.
"You're still mad about the election; you're upset because you've lost your government support group. To top it off, the new president keeps inviting you to the White House for chats. About education, about taxes, about faith-based initiatives.
"If you're a key rank-and-filer, like tax committee member Ben Cardin, he knows your district, even that you were a leader of the Maryland assembly. If you're Ted Kennedy, he invites your whole clan to watch a movie about JFK. (You go, even though you've seen it.)
"If you're House leader Dick Gephardt, he invites you to lunch, then surprises you with a birthday cake and a baseball book. (And signs it 'From one baseball fan to another.')
"It's hard, because you know what he's doing; he's making nice. You don't blame him. In fact, you wish that Bill Clinton had done more of it. Still, you've been orphaned, and you're skeptical about this new environment, albeit somewhat intrigued.
"As a public official, like Massachusetts House Democrat Marty Meehan, you know that 'if he's willing to meet us halfway, we have a responsibility to govern.' Yet as a Democratic leader, you're guarded.
"As one top House aide describes it, your left flank is warning, 'Don't suck up to this guy. He stole the election.' Meantime, your right flank wants to cut deals. It's tricky, this new world."

Nightmare scenario

"A month ago, I might have described the following as a Democratic dream: the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001, now called the McCain-Feingold-Cochran bill but still popularly very popularly, among Democrats known as McCain-Feingold, passes," Tish Durkin writes in National Journal.
"Mercifully, it does so without the Republicans' having forced the paycheck-protection provision, whereby unions would be forbidden to dip into their membership dues to make political (read Democratic) contributions.
"This frees even the most pro-labor legislator to vote in favor of the measure. President Bush then abandons his reservations and joins the crusade of his former foe, John McCain. The sky falls, the earth moves, angels and media consultants weep. 'Soft money' is history. McCain-Feingold has won.
"That was a month ago; lately, however, a small but increasingly disquieted number of Democrats have been looking a little harder at the reality of reform, and they are coming to view it as more of a nightmare than a dream. To listen to the Democratic consultants, election lawyers, and labor officials to whom I have been speaking lately, the passage of McCain-Feingold-Cochran would be a disaster a disaster whose dimensions are not yet grasped by many members who are on record as supporting the bill."
In the short run, President Bush would win plaudits, helping the Republicans hold Congress in 2002, the columnist said. And in the long run, the Democrats would say sayonara to the one fund-raising category in which they have been able to compete with Republicans: soft money.

Segregated group

Baltimore radio personality Les Kinsolving yesterday asked White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer if President Bush considered it proper to meet with what Mr. Kinsolving described as the only racially segregated organization on Capitol Hill the Congressional Black Caucus.
"The press secretary of Texas Congresswoman [Eddie Bernice] Johnson confirmed that while nonblacks can join the Congressional Black Caucus, they are called 'auxiliaries' and they're not allowed to vote," Mr. Kinsolving said. "And my question is, if the president had known about this racial discrimination, would he have invited this organization to the White House? Or did he know about it and believe it's all right because they're black?"
Mr. Fleischer: "Les, there are a number of congressional caucuses and groups that are formed over the years, and it's the prerogative … "
Mr. Kinsolving: "None are racially segregated, Ari, I checked it. None of them are racially segregated, only this [one]."
Mr. Fleischer: "It is the prerogative of Congress to set those terms, and I would refer any questions on that to the Congress."

Feeding frenzy

"Barely a week into George W. Bush's presidency, his tax cut seems almost inevitable," the New Republic groans in an editorial titled "The Pathetic Party."
"The Democrats appear set to repeat their sordid performance of 20 years ago when, instead of resisting Ronald Reagan's tax cut, they larded it with special-interest subsidies of their own. The size of the tax cut acceptable to Democrats edges up almost daily, from $500 billion to (as we go to press) $850 billion," the magazine said in its latest issue.
"Republicans, meanwhile, have begun predicting that the eventual tax cut might end up even larger than Bush's bloated proposal. 'The chances of a tax-cut feeding frenzy,' crows Lawrence Kudlow, a Bush adviser, 'are growing daily.' It's disturbing enough that fiscal policy is in the hands of people who use the phrase 'feeding frenzy' to describe a process they see as beneficial. What's more disturbing is that Kudlow's prediction could be right."

Disappointed

A White House official expressed disappointment yesterday at new Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe for questioning the legitimacy of Republican President Bush's election, Reuters reports.
As Mr. McAuliffe took over as DNC chairman Saturday, he made clear he would draw attention to the disputed election as a way to drum up support for the Democratic Party. He managed to include in his attack Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Bush lawyer James A. Baker III and Mr. Bush's choice for attorney general, John Ashcroft.
"You know this: if Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, Jim Baker and the Supreme Court hadn't tampered with the results, Al Gore would be president, George Bush would be back in Austin, and John Ashcroft would be home reading Southern Partisan magazine," Mr. McAuliffe said.
At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "Well, I would have to say that I thought those remarks were disappointing."
He said the Bush White House would press for civility.
"I think that it is incumbent on all people and all parties, even those who occupy the party posts, which are normally the most vociferous, to recognize that a new beginning is starting here in Washington. There's an old Washington. And that old Washington is often marked by rancor and division and partisanship, which leads to gridlock," he said.
He said Mr. Bush was trying to create a "new Washington" marked by civil discourse.
"I think that continuing to question the legitimacy of an election, that I'm not certain that even the Democrats in the Congress would share that point of view, is not a wise way to begin tenure," he said.
He said "our nation has spoken and President Bush is the nation's president."

Arnold is ready

Movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, accusing California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis of indecisiveness in confronting the state's electricity crisis, does not rule out a run for the governorship next year, Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton writes.
"I haven't really said this is the time. But, you know, the bottom line is if Davis goes on the way he is then eventually there will be a vacuum in a year and I could …" Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, told the columnist.

Pardon me

On NBC's "Late Night," host Conan O'Brien observed: "The New Mexico Legislature has formally asked their governor to pardon Billy the Kid. Apparently, Billy the Kid's ex-wife was a big contributor to Hillary's campaign."

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