- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

A cordial bunch

Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, paid a visit to state House Speaker Thomas Finneran and state Senate President Thomas Birmingham earlier this week, just days after Mr. Finneran announced a reapportionment plan that would break up Mr. Meehan's congressional district and distribute it to other incumbent Democrats.

Mr. Meehan has been considering a run for governor, but the Boston Globe reports growing speculation in Massachusetts political circles that Mr. Meehan will opt out of the governor's race and, if he can keep his district, run for Congress again. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mr. Birmingham, the Senate president, plans to run for governor and soon will issue his own congressional reapportionment plan.

Mr. Finneran and Mr. Birmingham are both Democrats.

"Despite the polite meetings, Meehan received no specific assurances that the legislative leaders would accommodate him by preserving the boundaries of his district, sources said. And Meehan did not signal to them what he intended to do," Globe reporter Frank Phillips writes.

Mr. Meehan told reporters, "I had a good discussion with the speaker. It was very cordial and constructive, and I look forward to more discussions."

Mr. Finneran also described the meeting as "cordial."

Confusing alignments

"It's hard to get a handle on the news from Washington," USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro writes.

"The White House floats a trial balloon about granting amnesty to Mexicans residing here illegally, and Senate Republican leader Trent Lott immediately ridicules the idea. A debate is raging within the administration over stem-cell research as some leading anti-abortion conservatives surprisingly line up on the side of unfettered medical experimentation. The liberal crusade for campaign reform is derailed in the House, partly because of opposition from the Congressional Black Caucus.

"What's going on here? [Republican pollster Frank] Luntz argues that these confusing political alignments mirror a 'post-partisan, post-ideological' mind-set among the voters. 'The public doesn't understand partisanship where Democrats all vote one way and Republicans vote another,' he says. 'Even on issues like energy, trade and a patients' bill of rights, the voters don't really know the Democratic response or the Republican response.'

"Still, it may be premature to drape flowers over a grave marked, 'Here Lies Partisan Ideology, Rest in Peace,'" Mr. Shapiro said. "Voters still react to issues based on belief structures, even if their sentiments do not fit into tidy cubbyholes. Perhaps the problem is not the death of ideology, but the way we choose to describe public attitudes.

"Do facile terms like 'liberal" and 'conservative' obscure more than they reveal? As Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, puts it, 'We do need a new political vocabulary, and we don't have it.'"

A picky eater

Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman is unrepentant about ordering the color of her waiter along with her entree.

The 54-year-old Democratic activist, who also headed up a February conference in Chicago advocating reparations for slavery, asked the Palmer House Hilton to add black waiters to serve her staff during a political reception last year.

On Tuesday, Miss Tillman defended her request during a news conference at her South Side office.

"I make no apology for asking that black people get some benefit from the money we spend with any business or organization," the Chicago Tribune quotes the alderman as saying. "Every black church, Greek organization, social or civic organization spending their money on banquets or other events should demand some black people be assigned as part of the service corps."

Perhaps even more interesting, the Hilton bowed to her request, which, predictably, brought a federal discrimination lawsuit from the two white waiters who were replaced by two blacks.

The action was filed Friday, seeking $100,000 in damages.

Miss Tillman requested black servers be assigned to work the room after walking in and not seeing any black waiters — a violation of an agreement with the hotel to have a diverse staff that included black waiters, she said.

Unflattering photos

"Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, seemed at first to be having some difficulty adjusting to life in the minority. But when Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Rules Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, went on an ill-advised grab for additional office space by proposing to force out two press galleries in the Senate, the ensuing protest by the media seemed to amuse Lott," United Press International reports.

"'There's two groups I learned never to mess with,' he told reporters. 'Spouses and the media.'

"Daschle must have been listening, because the plan was withdrawn last , after 10 days of brutal whining and subtle threats by reporters.

"As the Senate photographers gallery was slated for removal, some speculated that a series of unflattering photos of the pair that showed up in several publications might not have been accidental. With their desks safe, maybe the photogs will re-find Daschle's 'good side.'"

'No' to tribute

The House overwhelmingly approved an amendment yesterday by Majority Whip Tom DeLay that bars any payments to the Chinese government in connection with the Navy EP-3E reconnaissance plane that was forced to land on Hainan island in April.

The proposal by Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican and a staunch enemy of communism, was approved 424-6. All six "no" votes were from Democrats.

The measure, attached to an appropriations bill funding the departments of State, Commerce and Justice, forbids any U.S. funds "to pay any request or claim by the Government of the People's Republic of China for reimbursement of the costs" of detaining the Navy crew or the return of the damaged aircraft to the United States."

"It must never be American policy to pay tribute to aggressive regimes," Mr. DeLay said on the House floor. "The idea that American taxpayers should start rewarding communist piracy is as contemptible as it is unlikely to happen."

He said the United States must engage China, but added that Chinese President Jiang Zemin "and his circle of apparatchiks will never deter America from flying patrols to the frontier of freedom."

Tabloid frenzy

"Alien Fathers Wolf Baby" headlines are one thing, but the tabloids' frenzy involving Chandra Levy's disappearance and Rep. Gary A. Condit's reported affair with the 24-year-old former intern has crossed the line into bad taste, Save Mart officials have determined.

The Modesto, Calif.-based supermarket chain last week ordered store managers either to wrap the tabloids in white paper or turn them so the back pages face shoppers waiting in check-out lines, the Modesto Bee reports.

Save Mart marketing director Sally Sanborn said the tabloid covers have been too explicit about the affair between the California Democrat and the missing intern, who are both from Modesto. "We're a family store," she said. "We don't want children to see it, or the Condit family."

She said store employees will monitor the racks, turning around uncovered copies that customers have thumbed through.

Get me rewrite

The minutes for Friday's monthly meeting of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights aren't quite ready because they are still being edited.

Edited? We thought minutes were a verbatim account of the meeting.

Apparently not at this commission.

"The people who usually do that aren't in today," a commission receptionist said. "The minutes usually go back and forth between people before they are done."

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