- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

Warning for Democrats

"One intriguing statistic in the latest polls is that Bush's approval rating among blacks is up to about 30 percent. Hardly impressive, but triple the dismal 9 percent he got last November," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.

"That's a warning for Democrats because last fall's election was so close only because of their success, with the help of an NAACP TV attack ad that linked Bush to a Texas lynching, at demonizing him among blacks," Miss Orin said.

"Like him or hate him, Bush is no racist, and that strategy won't work against him in the next election.

"Democratic pollster Ron Lester says: 'If [Bush strategists] find a way to get his African-American support up to 15 to 20 percent, it's over. That would be a major concern to the Democratic Party because, in effect, he would have a lock, given his support among whites.' "

Gephardt's antics

"For the third time in as many Congresses, House members from both parties packed for a few days away from the nation's capital and headed last weekend to an event billed as a 'Bipartisan Civility Retreat.' And although the event was certainly well intentioned, any hope that it would succeed in its stated goal of raising the level of discourse on Capitol Hill above partisan rancor had evaporated before bags were checked in at the Greenbrier," Roll Call says in an editorial.

"Both parties carry their share of the blame for this turn of events, but we are particularly dismayed by the antics of Democrats and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, in the days and weeks leading up to the gathering.

Left with few other bargaining chips in the minority, Democrats repeatedly threatened to hold the retreat hostage, hinting at an outright boycott if their organizational concerns and legislative priorities were not swiftly addressed," the newspaper observed.

"To us, it seems that Speaker [J.] Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, tried to meet Democrats at least part of the way. He helped ease a crunch on Democrats' ability to dole out prime committee slots by creating extra seats on both the Appropriations and Energy and Commerce committees, and there has been widespread agreement among GOP chairmen to provide Democrats with the panel-funding ratios they seek."

Mr. Gephardt's response? He sent a letter to Mr. Hastert that pokes the speaker in the eye for failure to change the tone in Washington.

The press received the letter before Mr. Hastert did, Roll Call reported in a news story.

Pardon defender

While the Clinton pardons have angered and distracted most Democrats, Pennsylvania Rep. Chakah Fattah has used the scandal to make a name for himself, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Mr. Fattah "appears to be the lone Democrat willing to defend Marc Rich, a bit of daring that has made him the darling of booking agents from Tim Russet's 'Meet the Press' to Chris Matthew's 'Hardball,' " reporter Peter Nicholas writes.

"For Fattah, a comparatively obscure member of Congress with a name that many have trouble pronouncing, the Rich pardon has landed him spots on the blue-chip political talk shows. He recently had to turn down an invitation to appear on 'Larry King Live' because he had already committed to talking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer," the reporter said.

"… Fattah's office calls Clinton's Washington staff to check facts. It doesn't mean as much as it did when he was still president, but Clinton is grateful.

"Fattah said he got a phone call from Clinton thanking him after his guest spot last month on 'Meet the Press.' "

The congressman, who paid no political price because his largely black Philadelphia district adores Mr. Clinton, even contends that his TV appearances got the attention of the Democratic Party leadership and helped him win a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee after years of trying, the Inquirer reporter said.

Avoid 'food fight'

Americans should not get into a "major food fight" over issues such as affirmative action, but should be as thoughtful as the Constitution's framers were, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said yesterday.

"Now it's a war of words, it's a war of politics, and I don't see where it does any good," he said in a speech at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

But Justice Thomas said it would be a "huge mistake" to view the nation's highest court as basing its decisions on politics, the Associated Press reports.

During the Bush vs. Gore presidential election case, "I just wish that there was some way that the American people could truly have seen the court function with this thing that had everybody else torn apart," he said. "I still say after almost 10 terms, I have yet to hear the first unkind word."

Regarding affirmative action, Justice Thomas said he believed in helping disadvantaged children instead of helping more well-off children based on race.

"We've gotten into such a major food fight over policy in our country when it comes to issues such as affirmative action that you can't have the kinds of discussions that Madison and Jefferson … must have had when they founded this country," the justice said, "where everybody was prepared and serious and thoughtful and working toward a solution."

Justice Thomas noted the court has been criticized for recent rulings that have favored states rights. But he said state power puts a check on the federal government and protects individual liberty.

Such emphasis on state authority should not be blamed for the evils of slavery and segregation, he added.

"The men and women who perpetrated both slavery and segregation were those who committed the wrongs and who perverted the American system of government for their own ends and their own prejudices," Justice Thomas said.

Miami tea party

Miami Mayor Joe Carollo's wife told police he hit her in the head with a canister last month after an argument in which she tried to explain how to make tea.

The Miami Police Department on Wednesday, in response to a judge's order, released the transcript of Maria Ledon Carollo's statement to police and photos taken of her after the incident.

The mayor is charged with misdemeanor simple battery, which is punishable by a maximum one-year term in county jail, on suspicion of throwing a cardboard tea canister at his wife and causing a lump on her head. Since he would be a first-time offender if convicted, he would likely receive a lighter punishment.

Mrs. Carollo, who filed for divorce in November, told police she and the mayor began arguing in the kitchen the morning of Feb. 7, according to the transcript. The mayor asked her how to make tea, and she told him to fill a pot with water and let it boil. He asked again if he was supposed to fill the pot with water.

"No, point your finger and water will appear," Mrs. Carollo recalled saying.

The mayor insulted her and she insulted him back, she said. He then threw the canister and hit her on the temple, Mrs. Carollo said, and she lunged at him.

More education needed

In Chicago, 20 precincts had ballot spoilage rates of 20 percent or more in the past presidential election. In one precinct, the error rate exceeded 36 percent, the Chicago Tribune reports.

"Wards with the biggest problems were predominantly minority and low-income," reporter Gary Washburn writes.

The problem was not the punch-card machines used in Chicago; more affluent precincts had few problems. Instead, officials cited the need for more voter education.

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