- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Plausible outcome

"Although redistricting can mean political life or death for individual politicians, its impact on the two parties is often grossly overstated," political analyst Charlie Cook writes in the National Journal.
"Insiders in both parties agree that the outcome of next year's congressional election will probably have more to do with President Bush's job-approval ratings at that time than with the exact placement of district lines," Mr. Cook said.
"Nevertheless, insiders in both parties feel strongly that if Republicans get all the breaks, they could gain seven to nine seats through redistricting. If Democrats get every redistricting break, they might net two to four seats. A GOP gain of two to four seats is the most plausible outcome."

Incendiary language

Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, says he will be delighted if Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, carries out his threat to filibuster energy legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
"I'd be willing to run a campaign on energy delighted," the Mississippi Republican told Roll Call, suggesting that a filibuster would hurt the Democrats.
Said reporter Ed Henry: "In a lengthy interview, Lott repeatedly used incendiary language to accuse the Democrats of making a grave political mistake by pushing conservation over increased production to handle the energy shortage."
Among Mr. Lott's remarks about Democrats: "They don't understand what happened in California? Don't they understand it's going to happen again this summer, and that we're headed for rolling brownouts and blackouts?"
Mr. Lott said the energy legislation will be brought up in June or July.

Switching chairman?

President Bush, who in January named a close friend of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott as chairman of a key federal energy agency, now wants to give the post to an old Texas ally, according to government sources.
The abrupt shift is drawing attention because of the potential conflict between the White House and the Senate's top Republican and because the agency has been the focus of attempts by California to get federal help in reining in high electricity costs, the Associated Press reports.
Congressional and administration sources said Mr. Bush plans, as early as this week, to nominate Pat Wood III, chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with an intention to make him chairman.
Mr. Lott was said to have been furious over the shift less than two months after the White House announced the selection of Curtis Hebert, a longtime Lott friend from Mississippi, as chairman.
Mr. Lott has championed Mr. Hebert to head the five-member commission that regulates wholesale power markets and interstate natural gas pipelines. A former state utility regulator in Mississippi, Mr. Hebert has been a commissioner since 1997 and was named chairman by Mr. Bush on Jan. 22. There was no indication the job would be temporary.
A strong advocate for allowing competition to dictate power markets, Mr. Hebert, like Mr. Bush and his top advisers, has rejected California's pleas for temporary price controls on soaring wholesale electricity costs.
But with California's power crisis showing no sign of disappearing, Mr. Bush is said to prefer one of his own in charge of the federal agency. Mr. Wood, 38, a key player in electricity deregulation efforts in Texas, also was an adviser to Mr. Bush on energy matters during the campaign and in the postelection transition activities.
According to recent published reports, Mr. Bush also is expected to nominate Joseph Kelliher, a former majority counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to the FERC. Currently, Mr. Hebert is the commission's only Republican, along with two Democrats.

Phone trouble

"President Bush is no friend of Alexander Graham Bell," Paul Bedard writes in U.S. News & World Report.

"What seemed a funny campaign quirk his ire over cell phones ringing in his presence has developed into a full-blown wave of fear among staffers and even reporters. An example: During a recent Oval Office photo op, a news photographer's cell phone rang, winning the president's glare and a staffer's order to shut it off. It didn't end there. Outside the Oval, the photographer was told if it happened again, he'd be banned from the president's office," Mr. Bedard said. "Turning the ringers off seems easy enough, right? Well, now we learn that Bush sometimes has problems with phones himself. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee reveals that during Bush's recent trip to Little Rock, the prez had trouble dialing the White House from his limo phone for an update on the Seattle earthquake. He hit '01' to reach the White House, but nothing happened. So he dialed '02.' Again, nothing. He touched '03' and finally a voice, but it said: 'Camp David.' Fortunately, he was patched through."

Targeting casual voters

Almost a third of people who didn't vote in the last election say they follow politics and public affairs closely, according to a survey released yesterday that suggests making it easier to vote could lure more people to the polls.
A third of the nonvoters said that even though they didn't vote this time, they frequently vote in elections, according to the poll done for the Medill School of Journalism.
"We wanted to look into why people don't vote and how firm they are in nonvoting habits. What was surprising to us was finding such a high number of now-and-then voters," Ellen Shearer, co-director of Medill News Service, told the Associated Press.
One of the best ways to increase voter turnout "may be motivating these occasional voters about a third of all citizens to become regular voters rather than in motivating chronic nonvoters," she said.
Many people assume that nonvoters are generally a pretty alienated and unmotivated group, she said, but the survey suggested there are many who could easily be drawn back to the voting booth.
Some practices nonvoters said would make them more likely to vote:
Being allowed to register and vote on the same day, 64 percent.
Holding elections over two or three days, 57 percent.
Allowing everyone to vote by mail, 42 percent.
Allowing people to vote over the Internet, 41 percent.
Holding elections over the weekend, 37 percent.
The poll of 1,053 persons who didn't vote in November and 859 who did was taken from Nov. 8 through Dec. 5, just after the election, and has an error margin of three percentage points.

Greenspan and Gore

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will discuss news coverage of the economy as part of the Columbia School of Journalism seminar taught by former Vice President Al Gore, Bloomberg News reports.
The lecture will be held March 21, the day after the next scheduled meeting of the central bank's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed said.
Sessions of Mr. Gore's seminar "Covering National Affairs in the Information Age" have been closed to the press. Mr. Gore, a former reporter, started teaching at the New York graduate school in February.
Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Gore will discuss "the relationship between the economy and the media, and how the media reports on the often technical issues related to the economy and financial markets; the Federal Reserve, how it is covered by the media; and how it utilizes the media to help accomplish its goal of managing its monetary policy goals," according to Columbia's Web site.

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