- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

Auspicious beginning

In the New York U.S. Senate race, Hillary Rodham Clinton's most vigorous attack ad chided her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, for missing votes in Congress.

So how did her first day in the Senate go?

With a missed vote.

The senator and first lady was not at the Capitol on Friday for a vote on the first major piece of business in the 107th Congress a power-sharing agreement in the Senate that gave each party an equal number of committee seats.

According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Clinton was with her husband at a White House event in Virginia when the vote occurred.

But on Oct. 11, Mrs. Clinton's campaign began running a 15-second ad that began, "Recently Rick Lazio skipped 59 of 60 votes in Congress," based on votes taken in Congress between Sept. 7 and Oct. 8, the height of campaign season.

Among the votes named in the ad were financing for 100,000 new teachers and the Violence against Women Act.

In fairness, the vote that Mrs. Clinton missed Friday was a formality that most lawmakers missed, since the party leaders already had hammered out the agreement. No harm, no foul, right? However, that was exactly what Mr. Lazio said about his missed votes.

His spokesmen pointed out that the three bills Mrs. Clinton's ad named passed by margins ranging from 21 votes to 412 votes. They added that Mr. Lazio had a 99 percent voting record during his first term in Congress, 98 percent in his second term, 97 percent in his third term and 99 percent in his fourth term before entering the Senate race in May.

But at the time, Mrs. Clinton was taking no excuses; voting was a principled matter of "doing your job" and "showing up for work."

Howard Wolfson, her communications director, told the New York Times during the campaign that "Congressman Lazio is trying to tell New Yorkers that he is an effective legislator for New York, and he has stopped doing his job … He has put his own career and ambitions ahead of New York."

"Its for New Yorkers to decide whether they want to vote for someone who voted himself a pay raise and then didn't show up for work," spokesman Karen Dunn told Newsday.

In the doghouse

Some social conservatives apparently have damaged their credibility with George W. Bush by bragging to reporters that they pressured the president-elect into passing over Montana Gov. Mark Racicot for the post of attorney general.

So writes U.S. News & World Report columnist Gloria Borger, who quoted unidentified Bush aides as saying Mr. Bush is "deeply troubled" that conservatives pleased with his nomination of John Ashcroft to be attorney general are, as the columnist put it, "blabbing all over Washington about their extraordinary influence in deep-sixing" Mr. Racicot.

"This makes Bush furious, top aides say, for an even bigger reason: It's not true," the columnist added.

In fact, Bush adviser Karl Rove, in a conference call with Christian conservatives, told them that Mr. Racicot was a done deal, the columnist writes. And Mr. Bush, aides said, almost fell out of his chair when Mr. Racicot turned down the position in favor of making money in the private sector.

Gleeful Democrats have since jumped on the story of Mr. Bush's supposed acquiescence to hard-line conservatives. In fact, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, in an appearance yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," embellished the story, claiming that conservatives had not only blocked Mr. Racicot, but a number of other candidates as well.

"I would respectfully suggest that the president-elect, who ran on the notion that he is a uniter, that he will bring people together, had Marc Racicot, [Oklahoma] Governor [Frank] Keating, former Senator John Danforth" as potential choices who would have had no problem being confirmed, Mr. Kerry said. "But they were vetoed by an element of the Republican Party that only wanted a John Ashcroft."

The Clinton legacy

"The Clinton era was marked by four major developments in Washington: the failure of his health care plan, enactment of welfare reform, arrival of a balanced budget, and impeachment," Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

"Not one of these was sought by Clinton quite the opposite. A wiser politician would not have turned his most significant domestic initiative, national health care, over to his wife. Nor would he have spurned reasonable compromises offered by leading Republicans. Clinton wound up with nothing. Now he claims it was impossible, given the circumstances, for national health care to have won approval by Congress (then controlled by Democrats). Shouldn't a politician with his supposed gifts have sensed that at the time?" Mr. Barnes asks.

"Clinton brags about welfare reform and a balanced budget. But he had little to do with either. Sure, he talked about ending welfare 'as we know it.' The bill written by Republicans, terminating the welfare entitlement altogether, was far from what he envisioned, however. He signed it reluctantly and only after political adviser Dick Morris warned he'd lose the 1996 election if he didn't. He and his aides vehemently opposed a balanced budget until pressure by congressional Republicans made that position untenable. So, as with welfare reform, Clinton acquiesced. And impeachment? Clinton says it's a badge of honor. Right. In any case, he didn't seek it."

A trade?

ABC's Cokie Roberts says she has heard a theory on why members of the Congressional Black Caucus were unable to find a senator to join in their challenge Saturday of the Electoral College vote from Florida.

Under the rules, no challenge was possible without a signature from each chamber.

"There are some reports that the senators traded signing on there for having power-sharing in the Senate," Mrs. Roberts said on "This Week" yesterday, referring to the agreement that will give Democrats equal representation on committees in a Senate that is split 50-50.

"And that, probably, in the long run, works better for [Senate Democrats]. Because, after all, what good would this have done? This would have just thrown everything into chaos," Mrs. Roberts said of the electoral-vote challenge.

Office of Diversity

George W. Bush's Presidential Inaugural Committee announced yesterday that it has established an Office of Diversity to make sure that inaugural activities include "a diverse culture and population."

The office is headed by Ernie Ladd and Eli Rodriguez, both of whom hold the title of special deputy to Jeanne Johnson Phillips, executive director of the committee.

"The Office of Diversity's mission is to coordinate, collaborate and link individuals and resources regarding all presidential inaugural activities toward ensuring that inaugural activities include a diverse culture and population," Mrs. Phillips said in a prepared statement. "We believe this echoes the theme for the 54th inaugural celebration, 'Celebrating America's Spirit Together.' "

The Office of Diversity also will serve "as a resource for individuals, organizations, coalitions, media and other interested persons seeking information on minority participation in inaugural events," the committee said.

McCain drops hints

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona raised the stakes in his battle for campaign finance reform yesterday, as he hinted he might link his backing of George W. Bush's Cabinet nominees to the president-elect's readiness to support his bill.

"I think it would be a terrible thing if we passed a meaningful campaign finance reform package, and the first thing that the president had to do was to veto it," Mr. McCain said on CNN's "Late Edition." "And, by the way, I also am working with the president to approve his nominees."


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