- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2001

McCain denies feud

Sen. John McCain yesterday denied reports of bad blood between him and the president, and ruled out a run for the White House in 2004.
Mr. McCain, interviewed on CBS' "Face the Nation," insisted he had "very good relations" with the White House, including Vice President Richard B. Cheney, with whom he said he had met the week before last.
"The president and I have a cordial relationship," the Arizona Republican said. "There is always going to be bad blood when there is a tough campaign. But there certainly isn't between me and the president or anybody else associated with him, nor with the majority of my people."
Asked if he would rule out challenging Mr. Bush for re-election in 2004, the 64-year-old senator said, "Absolutely. Yes."
He also made plain he would not run as an independent candidate, saying, "I have no contemplation of such a thing."

The velvet hammer

While interviewing Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and majority whip, NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert said yesterday he was confused. "Your colleague Deborah Pryce, Republican from Ohio, said she was on a retreat with you, and this is what she said about Tom DeLay: 'He was poking fun at himself, putting the old Tom DeLay in a more humorous way. He's the hammer, he's the gruff one, he's all business, but he got up there with this flower, this pink carnation, was just sniffing and talking about, I feel so good. I didn't think I'd like bipartisan stuff and hippie beads and peace signs.' "
"That's the new Tom DeLay," Mr. DeLay said.
Mr. Russert: "No more hammer."
Mr. DeLay: "No more there never was a hammer. I had a velvet hammer."
Mr. Russert: "Is it just a rubber mallet now?"
Mr. DeLay: "I'm just a velvet hammer. I'm into all this bipartisan stuff."
Mr. Russert: "My son would say, 'I don't think so.' "

Mississippi Zen

Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican and majority leader, says he is enjoying the new tone in Washington set by President Bush.
"We have a new president, and I get up every morning knowing that I'll be able to work with this president, and he won't cause problems for us, and we can get some things done that will help working Americans, my family and a lot of families across this country," Mr. Lott said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Program host Wolf Blitzer then quoted from the latest issue of U.S. News & World Report: "It says, 'The veteran lawmaker from Mississippi is a man with a newly discovered inner peace. Call it Mississippi Zen.' "
Mr. Lott said he is indeed feeling "a certain calm" and again attributed a lot of it to new management at the White House.
"And so, yes, there is a certain Zen that maybe I'm enjoying these days."

The good soldier

Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Todd Whitman yesterday defended President Bush's decision to back away from a pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions, saying voluntary reductions were enough for now.
Mrs. Whitman, a member of the Energy Task Force chaired by Vice President Richard B. Cheney, said she was not caught unaware of the president's decision to rescind his campaign promise, though she had, just days before at a meeting in Italy of environmental ministers from the most industrialized nations, touted the CO2 policy on power plants.
The president still "supports a multipollutant bill" but the country's need for a multi-energy strategy supersedes the need for caps on carbon dioxide emissions, Mrs. Whitman said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Not a water carrier

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao says she believes she and organized labor "understand each other," but she recognizes it is not a love affair.

"They know that I'm a conservative," Mrs. Chao said on John McLaughlin's "One-on-One," which aired last night on News Channel 8.

The show host then said that, as Labor secretary, Mrs. Chao is "expected" to be a "quasi-advocate" for the labor movement. "That's your role," Mr. McLaughlin insisted.

Mrs. Chao made it clear that's her role "with the total labor force." She pointed out that organized labor accounts for only about 13 percent of the total U.S. work force.

Mr. McLaughlin then asked the Labor secretary if it might not be hard for her to "represent" John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, when she is working for a "conservative" president like George W. Bush, who was not the choice of the labor movement in the last election.

"I don't represent Mr. Sweeney. He and I have worked together very well in the past [on the board of the United Way], but I don't represent him," she replied.

Mr. McLaughlin continued to press. "But you have to carry his water, don't you, to some extent?" he asked her.

"Oh, I think Mr. Sweeney is big enough to carry his own water," Mrs. Chao said.

Records turned over

The political donor at the center of a federal investigation of Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, gave permission for his former defense attorneys to turn over case records to prosecutors, one of the lawyers said yesterday.
Michael Critchley, one of several former attorneys for donor David Chang, said he gave his records to prosecutors a few months ago, after Chang waived his right to attorney-client privilege. Mr. Critchley said other attorneys who once worked for Chang did the same, the Associated Press reports.
Newsweek reported yesterday that prosecutors sought the records to corroborate claims by Chang that Mr. Torricelli or those around him obstructed justice by pressuring Chang not to cooperate with the investigation

Stretching it

"There's no sweeter candy for White House correspondents than a nickname from President Bush. So it should come as no surprise that there's competition for the designation of 'Stretch,' " Paul Bedard writes in U.S. News & World Report.
"NBC's 6-foot-5 reporter David Gregory won it during the campaign. But that was before 6-foot-7 Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon arrived in the White House to cover Bush," Mr. Bedard said.
"Sammon opened a recent chat with Bush this way: 'What's this I hear you calling someone "Stretch"?' Bush looked up and down, then said, 'I guess I'll call you "Superstretch." ' "
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, in a letter to Mr. Bush, objected to his presidential nickname.
"About that nickname, 'Nellie.' I'd like to renegotiate. How about something more macho, like 'Tiger' or 'Killer.' I need to preserve my image," Mr. Nelson said.

Quota for questions

The rule in poker, according to Kenny Rogers, is knowing when to hold your cards and knowing when to fold. The rule apparently is true in journalism, too.
In a press conference last week with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, reporters were pursuing the question of whether an amendment could change Mr. Daschle's stance on the underlying bill.
"I don't want to be the bad news guy in the group," Wall Street Journal reporter David Rogers began.
"Well, don't ask any more questions," Mr. Daschle responded quickly, to reporters' laughter.
"I mean, you've got allocation for maybe one more bad-news question before the end of the week," Mr. Daschle told the notoriously sharp-witted reporter.
Mr. Rogers responded, "I'll save it," and sat back down.


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