- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

Lieberman's choice

Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate moved left in order to satisfy that wing of his party, now must decide which way to turn, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot writes.

"The Lieberman who emerges in the coming weeks will tell us a lot about the direction of the post-Clinton Democrats," Mr. Gigot said.

First, Mr. Lieberman must decide whether to vote for Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft. Mr. Lieberman says he is undecided.

"Mr. Lieberman admits to being especially uneasy about the attacks by some Democratic senators on Mr. Ashcroft for his religious beliefs. 'Yes, it does bother me,' he says, though he hasn't exactly shouted this from the rooftops.

"As an orthodox Jew, he 'broke a barrier' atop national party tickets. But Mr. Lieberman says he had hoped that his own much-praised religiosity 'would also have eliminated any anxiety about people who are openly religious holding public office.' A vote for Mr. Ashcroft would be a rebuke to Democratic liberals who claim to be tolerant about everything except orthodox Christians," Mr. Gigot said.

"On the other hand, Mr. Lieberman adds, he's grateful to the civil rights groups that supported him for veep. In the wake of Florida's election, these also happen to be the angriest of Mr. Ashcroft's opponents. And the senator learned the hard way, last August, how California Rep. Maxine Waters and the rest of the black liberal establishment can punish a Democrat who strays from their plantation. He met with a clutch of their lobbyists [last] week.

"Mr. Lieberman's decision may say more about his own future than it will about Mr. Ashcroft's."

Election strategy

"It may seem too early to talk ballots and campaigns, but congressional Republicans and the White House, led by Bush adviser Karl Rove, are already weighing the impact of the president's initial actions on voting groups key to expanding GOP control after the 2002 midterm elections," writes Paul Bedard of U.S. News & World Report, citing anonymous sources.

"The goal: reaching out to independents, especially so-called McCain voters, and the party's conservative base. 'They run the show and are the core primary voters in midterms,' says a Bush associate. Luring them was partly why President Bush played education and taxes in Week 1. Insiders say the education initiative targets poor and middle-income Americans, especially blacks, Hispanics and Catholics. And his $1.6 trillion tax plan even won support in some Democratic quarters.

"Add to that his plan this week to propose a 'faith-based initiative,' which reaches out to Christian conservatives, and his friendly meeting with Sen. John McCain on campaign finance reform, and you've got 'the start of our winning congressional election strategy,' says one insider of the White House plan."

Harris honored

At the Republican Party's annual Kansas Day gathering Saturday, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was hailed as a hero who courageously stood her ground in the face of unrelenting criticism, the Kansas City Star reports.

"She handled an impossible situation very well," said Mrs. Harris' counterpart in Kansas, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh. "The bottom line is, she proved that the system works."

Democrats vilified Mrs. Harris when she refused to deviate from the recount deadline set by state law and as later rewritten by the Florida Supreme Court.

On Saturday, star-struck Republicans waited as long as 30 minutes to greet her, reporter Steve Kraske writes. Many sought autographs while others, including the family of U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, posed for photos with one of America's newest political celebrities.

At a breakfast meeting of county officials, Republican leaders presented her with the first Katherine Harris Award for Courage in Public Service.

Several times during her speech Saturday, she sought to put her award into perspective.

"During those 36 days of trial, it never occurred to me, nor does it seem to me now, that anything I did was heroic or remarkable," she said. "I was simply following the law and doing my job."

Oooh, oooh, oooh

The Wall Street Journal came up with the following analogy Friday to explain the sudden liberal outrage over the way Bill and Hillary Clinton chose to exit the White House.

"Years ago on television there was a very funny comedy series starring Phil Silvers as a character in the Army named Sgt. Bilko. Bilko was a career confidence man a schemer, a gambler, a liar of such resolute smoothness and chutzpah that one just had to laugh. But there was another character on the show named Sgt. Ridzik, whom Bilko enjoyed making the unwitting party to his plans. Every now and then Ridzik seemed to grasp the full meaning of Bilko's schemes, and this would cause him to heave and say, 'Oooh, oooh, oooh!'

"This, in the past 72 hours or so, is roughly the same sound that has been gurgling out of this country's liberal establishment over Bill and Hillary Clinton. Oooh, oooh, oooh, he's pardoning their campaign contributors! Oooh, oooh, oooh, they're looting the White House!"

Among those Ridziklike entities cited in the Journal editorial: Newsday, the New York Times, The Washington Post and its columnist Mary McGrory, and Michael Kramer of the New York Daily News, who said of the former first couple: "I won't call them 'white trash.' But if not that, then what?"

Said the Journal: "What seems to be happening now is the liberals' realization that in fact the Clintons don't give a damn what anyone thinks, including them. Very hard on them, poor souls. The Clintons' latest is not just a thumb in the eyes of the low, sloping forehead conservative rabble; it's their blazing-in-neon sign to the world that they now don't care what anyone says, not the New York Times (which endorsed her for senator), not the progressive elites, not anyone."

Ads for Helms

Sen. Jesse Helms hasn't said whether he will seek re-election in 2002, but the North Carolina Republican Party has started running positive newspaper ads about his commitment to schoolchildren.

State Republican Chairman Bill Cobey said the ads are intended to boost the party's profile and will be a worthwhile investment whether Mr. Helms decides to run again or not, reports John Wagner of McClatchy Newspapers.

"It's a party-building activity," Mr. Cobey said. "Elected officials are the face of our party. I wouldn't consider it a waste if he doesn't run."

Should Mr. Helms, 79, decide to retire, several Republican members of Congress are waiting in the wings to run for his seat in 2002. But Mr. Cobey said he has encouraged Mr. Helms to seek a sixth term.

"He knows that I want him to run, and I hope he will," Mr. Cobey said. "He would be the strongest candidate."

The ads feature photographs of Mr. Helms surrounded by schoolchildren during visits to his Washington office and note that he has met with more than 100,000 of them since first being elected in 1972.

Both Mr. Cobey and Helms spokesman Jimmy Broughton said Mr. Helms did not ask for the ads. "We were not involved," Mr. Broughton said. "We had nothing to do with it."

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