- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2001

Race baiting pays

"It's good for Democrats to have [George W. Bush] and his most visible nominees spend the next three to four weeks saying they're not racist," an anonymous Democratic strategist told the Los Angeles Times.

"Certainly the energy and vitriol that interest groups are putting into this [opposition to Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft] is directly related to the bitterness that emerged out of Florida," the Democrat added.

Divine intervention?

"Whether by divine intervention or more earthly forces at work, it appears the final say on the James Riady plea bargain in the campaign-finance affair will not take place under Reno Justice," the Wall Street Journal observes in an editorial.

"At a hearing in California [on Tuesday], U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lew was not available to consider the case, due to recent surgery. That means the incoming Bush Justice Department could have another look at Mr. Riady's agreement, and Judge Lew might have more latitude when considering the plea," the newspaper said.

"Mr. Riady, head of the multibillion-dollar Lippo conglomerate, is at the epicenter of the illegal 'Asian Connection' case that warped the electoral system in 1996. We hear more than one independent counsel would like to talk to Mr. Riady. The Bush administration and Judge Lew could give them a bit of leverage."

Wellstone to run again

Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone announced Wednesday he will run for a third term in 2002, breaking his campaign pledge to limit himself to two terms.

The 56-year-old Democrat said he made his decision because "so much has changed" in Washington since the November elections created a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.

"For the first time since 1881, one vote really matters, one senator really matters," he said.

The former college professor had toyed with the idea of running against Gov. Jesse Ventura next year, but he said in December he was rethinking the promise he made the day after his election in 1990 in view of the election results.

Minnesota's senior senator revealed his decision Tuesday night to Mike Erlandson, chairman of the state's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

"This is obviously a decision Paul gave an awful lot of thought to and reached in a very deliberate way," Mr. Erlandson said.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis first reported Mr. Wellstone's decision in yesterday's editions.

Former Republican Sen. Rod Grams, who lost to Democrat Mark Dayton last year, said he might challenge Mr. Wellstone in 2002, the Associated Press reports.

Hard to tell

Independent counsel Robert W. Ray, in an interview this week with USA Today's editorial board, once again said a decision on whether to indict Bill Clinton will come "very shortly after the president leaves office."

It's hard to tell from Mr. Ray's other comments which way he is leaning. For example:

"I have to make a judgment about whether there are adequate alternatives to federal criminal prosecution. Federal criminal prosecution is a sledgehammer; it is an option of last resort, not of first resort. I'm the person who makes the judgment of whether the full power of and authority of the U.S. government are brought to bear with regard to any prospective defendant. I also am mindful that no person is above the law, including the president of the United States."

'Time to move on'

National Review, in an editorial to be published in its Feb. 5 issue, comes out against an indictment of President Clinton and in favor of a pardon.

"The result of impeachment was, of course, unsatisfactory: a rough public consensus that Clinton was a liar, but that his wrongdoing wasn't serious enough to warrant his removal from office," the magazine says.

"In light of this, an indictment would probably serve only to stoke another pro-Clinton backlash. And to no real end: As a matter of sheer seemliness, the country should be spared the spectacle of a former president in the dock.

"Meanwhile, Republicans should want to avoid expending any more energy especially during the crucial early months of the Bush administration on Clinton. So Bush should pardon Clinton now, for the sake of the integrity of the constitutional process (which does not envisage an independent counsel), for his own practical interests, and for the country. A pardon would make Bush look magnanimous while putting Clinton in his proper place beside Richard Nixon as a disgraced, pardoned former president. He is a small man, who deserves no more of our attention. It, finally, really is time to move on."

2 Democrats targeted

An independent Republican group is running television ads in Montana and North Dakota two states that President-elect George W. Bush won by wide margins urging those states' Democratic senators to support Mr. Bush's proposed tax cut.

"Tax cuts will create new jobs and keep the economy moving. But some Washington politicians oppose the Bush tax cuts," says an ad being broadcast in Montana, where Sen. Max Baucus, a member of the Finance Committee, faces re-election in 2002.

The Republican Leadership Council also is targeting Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the New York Times reports. Mr. Conrad also serves on the Finance Committee, which will take up any tax bill. He was re-elected in November.

Just in case

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, has asked President Clinton to halt bombing and shelling at a naval practice base in Puerto Rico.

Mrs. Clinton, in a letter yesterday to Puerto Rico President Sila Calderon, said: "Today, I am asking the president to order a cessation of all bombing and shelling" until the Department of Health and Human Services completes a study of related health issues.

It was not clear yesterday whether Mrs. Clinton had been able to reach the president, but, just in case, she said she was "also asking the incoming administration" to end the bombing.

Governor injured

New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson fell on ice yesterday and suffered compression fractures in his upper spine but was not expected to require surgery, his spokeswoman said.

Mr. Johnson, 48, was expected to remain in St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe at least overnight, said spokeswoman Diane Kinderwater. She believed he would be ordered to get bed rest.

Mr. Johnson was in good condition and joking with the hospital staff, she said. X-rays and a CAT scan revealed the fractures.

He canceled plans to attend Saturday's inauguration of George W. Bush.

The Republican governor slipped and fell while running about 5 a.m. near the Santa Fe home where he is living while the Governor's Mansion is being renovated, she said.

Mr. Johnson is an avid triathlon competitor and an adept skier. He underwent surgery and physical therapy in 1996 after detaching a knee ligament in a ski accident, the Associated Press reports.

We knew him too well

The Media Research Center will conduct a funeral for the Clinton administration tonight at a hotel in the District of Columbia.

The center's Brent Bozell will serve as "master of condolences," and Christopher Buckley and Jackie Mason will offer eulogies. Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Lucianne Goldberg will head up the funeral committee, according to the New York Post.

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