- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

Lott's brother-in-law

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi yesterday said he expects the Senate to approve managed care reform this year, but that he and his brother-in-law, renowned trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs, have agreed to disagree on the solution.

Mr. Lott said Senate Republicans, including himself, "object vigorously" to legislation that would allow HMO patients to quickly file "a lawsuit by my brother-in-law."

"I don't think giving plaintiffs' lawyers another playground is the answer," Mr. Lott said. "What we want is results. I think we'll get it done this year. By the way, I love my brother-in-law. He married my wife's little sister, who's a wonderful Republican lady."

Asked if he and Mr. Scruggs ever discuss HMO reform, Mr. Lott said, "Of course. I say to him, 'Get off of it, you're a pain in my neck and I wish you'd take your multimillions of dollars and go to Key West and be quiet.' "

Turning serious, Mr. Lott called his brother-in-law a "great guy," but said they don't talk shop.

"Look, we are friends," Mr. Lott said. "We're from the same town. We married sisters. He's a great guy. He's brilliant, one of the smartest lawyers in America. We hunt together. But I wouldn't talk to him about [HMO reform]. He knows where I am; I know where he is. It wouldn't necessarily be wrong. I guess maybe I bend over backwards to keep my own conscience clear."

Sexist Democrats

"With Linda Chavez ending her quest [Tuesday] to be confirmed as labor secretary, the Bush Cabinet has lost a Hispanic woman. The only other Bush nominees challenged by Senate Democrats and liberal groups are Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft and Interior Secretary-designate Gale Norton. That means liberals have contested two out of three (or 67 percent) of Mr. Bush's female Cabinet nominees, while opposing only one of 11 (or 9 percent) of Mr. Bush's male selections," writes Matthew Berry, a staff attorney for the Institute of Justice.

"This stark disparity speaks for itself. Democrats are behaving in an obviously sexist fashion because they don't believe that women should serve in the Cabinet," Mr. Berry said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

"I'm sure that raising this charge strikes most as ludicrous. It certainly sounds absurd to me. Liberals have almost certainly not been raising howls about the Norton and Chavez nominations because of gender. Rather, they were unsurprisingly targeting Mr. Bush's three most conservative Cabinet appointees, two of whom happen to be women.

"Phew! What a relief to know that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party isn't run by a cabal of sexists. But there is still one problem with dismissing my facetious accusation of intolerance. Republicans and conservatives have been tagged with a remarkably similar charge for years," Mr. Berry said, referring to suggestions of racism whenever Republicans vote down liberal nominees who happen to be black.

"More amazingly, this accusation has been taken seriously by the mainstream media," Mr. Berry noted.

Davis' challenge

"California's electricity deregulation crisis could power Gov. Gray Davis to White House contention if he can troubleshoot the problem," USA Today reporter Martin Kasindorf writes.

"Or it could zap any Davis ambitions, just as Mediterranean fruit flies devoured Jerry Brown when he was governor and Davis was his chief of staff," Mr. Kasindorf said in a news analysis.

"The only certainty for Davis, a moderate Democrat who made his first suggested solutions for surging power prices and threatened blackouts Monday, is that he must abandon the ingrained caution that carried him through two charmed years at the helm of the most populous state… .

"Davis, 58, barely disguises his hopes for the presidential nomination in 2004; his new press secretary is a former New Hampshire state legislator. But to get past a re-election campaign in 2002, he must maneuver between the political third rail of angry ratepayers and the live wires of power companies that have contributed $725,000 to his $25 million war chest."

The reporter noted that Mr. Davis' approval rating has slid from 67 percent in February to 51 percent last week.

Every minute counts

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, yesterday broke a long Senate tradition of starting meetings late. He gaveled to a start the confirmation hearing for Education Secretary-designate Rodney Paige at precisely 10 a.m.

"I want to get every bit of enjoyment I can since I am only going to be chairman for nine more days," Mr. Kennedy explained as surprised staff scrambled for their seats. "So every minute counts."

Democrats are in control of the Senate until Jan. 20, when Republican Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney takes over. The Senate is split 50-50 between the parties and until Jan. 20, Democratic Vice President Al Gore breaks tie votes, giving Democrats control.

The once-and-future Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, appeared to take his minority status with good grace as he was forced to address Mr. Kennedy as "Mr. Chairman" for the first time in six years.

"I'm happy to have an opportunity to refresh myself in how to say that," he told Mr. Kennedy, "especially since it is temporary."

Boomerang effect

Campaign-finance "reform" threatens to drive down election turnout, a Cato Institute briefing paper says.

"Election 2000 suggests the contradictions of campaign-finance 'reform.' If the NAACP, the NRA, the unions, the Christian Coalition, the two parties, and others had not spent more than $100 million informing voters and getting out the vote, the participation rate would have been much lower than the 50.7 percent achieved," John Samples, Tom G. Palmer and Patrick Basham write in the Cato analysis.

"Those who plump for restrictions on campaign contributions and spending would really encourage lower turnout and less participation. Of course, higher turnout and more participation are the professed goals of those who would restrict the role of money in politics. Turnout rose because money flowed into our political system in 2000, a fact that should not be forgotten as Congress once again considers new regulations on campaign finance."

In the bank

Aided by contributors who helped President-elect George W. Bush smash all campaign fund-raising records, the Presidential Inaugural Committee says it has raised more than $20 million.

The committee wants up to $30 million to pay for the inaugural festivities, a figure that would eclipse the $23.7 million raised by President Clinton's 1997 committee, the Associated Press reports.

Tutwiler signs up

Margaret Tutwiler, who served two previous Republican presidents, has been named adviser to the president and special consultant for communications, the Bush-Cheney transition team announced yesterday.

She served as assistant secretary of state and spokesman in the administration of President Bush, the president-elect's father, as well as assistant to the president for communications. She spent eight years in the Reagan administration as assistant secretary of the Treasury Department for public affairs and as deputy assistant to the president for political affairs.

Literary battle

"Maureen Dowd [column, Jan. 7] says the fact that George W. Bush 'spoke of our NATO allies "the Grecians" during the campaign is a giveaway he's not reading Edith Hamilton,' " satirist Christopher Buckley notes in a letter published yesterday in the New York Times.

"Quite so. Obviously, the president-elect has been reading Plutarch's 'Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans,' specifically, the Dryden translation," Mr. Buckley said.

"Q.E.D., as we say in New Haven."

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