Thursday, May 10, 2001

Double dipping
Former President Bill Clinton gives the closing address at the big Hong Kong international business forum today. Such speechifying engagements are frequent in Mr. Clintons post-White House life, many courtesy of the Harry Walker Agency, which has an “exclusive agreement” with him.
“President Clintons core values of building community, creating opportunity and demanding responsibility have resulted in unprecedented progress for America,” the agency states gravely at its Web site, opposite a nice color photo of Mr. Clinton.
But, hey, this is show biz, not politics. The agency also represents actor Tim Watters, a Bill Clinton impersonator who has appeared often on NBCs “Tonight Show,” among other places.
“‘Will the real Bill Clinton please stand up?” the agency notes, opposite an equally nice color photo of Mr. Watters. “That is what you would say if President Clinton and Tim Watters were sitting in the same room together. Tim Watters is a comedian and actor who goes to great length to play the part.”

More distance

Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia distanced himself further from fellow Democrats yesterday, accusing them of “class warfare” and proposing tax cuts that even President Bush has not pushed vigorously.
“My Democrat friends need to be reminded and return to those days of yesteryear when they supported cutting tax rates and did not engage in this endless class warfare that they have today become a Johnny-one-note on,” the maverick Georgian told a Washington gathering of the conservative group Empower America.
Yesterdays speech was closed to the media, but copies were distributed afterward.
The Georgian proposed cutting the capital-gains tax, which many in his party have derided as a giveaway to the rich.
Mr. Miller said he would like to cut the rate of the tax, which covers profits from the sale of most investments, from 20 percent to 15 percent.
Even Mr. Bush has not proposed such a deep capital-gains cut, Mr. Miller said.
“I dont want to get off the reservation with the president. Im already off my other reservation” with his party, he said.
The harsh words came less than a week after Mr. Miller gave a muted response to rumors he might switch parties. He said he had no such plans “at this time,” and praised Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, for the manner with which he switched parties in the 1980s.

Ballot boxing

The much-maligned Palm Beach County election supervisor who backed the old “butterfly ballot” is dropping her four-year Democratic affiliation.
Theresa LePore said yesterday that she just wants to show that her job was nonpartisan. But she also did not appreciate the way Democrats treated her after Novembers race, including gripes that the ballot was confusing and cost Al Gore thousands of votes.
“I think its a good thing she became an independent,” said county Democratic Party Executive Director Cathy Dubin. “We have not publicly stated we were against her because she is one of ours, but there are many people in the party still angry.”
Mrs. LePore was a registered Republican from 1973 to 1978, went independent until 1997, when she switched to the Democrats.

Ballot ballet

And speaking of Al Gore, he made his first public appearance in Florida yesterday since losing the presidency, choosing to debut at a Travel Industry Association of America conference.
“I decided to observe a period in which I would not enter the public arena to criticize what the new president was doing,” Mr. Gore said. “I didnt think that would be appropriate after what weve been through. We need a little time to get our act together in the United States.”
While he was mum about President Bushs first 100 days in office, Mr. Gore praised the election-reform measure signed into law yesterday by Gov. Jeb Bush. The election overhaul will eliminate punch-card and hand-counted paper ballots and replace them with optical-scan balloting.
“I particularly applaud the provision that whenever a ballot is in dispute they count the ballot by hand,” Mr. Gore observed.

A dark and stormy night

Beware the dark days and radical roads of Cuomo and Clinton.
So said New York Gov. George E. Pataki in a fund-raising letter to potential donors for his re-election campaign next year.
The state “has come has come a long way from the dark days of Mario Cuomos failed policies,” wrote Mr. Pataki, who ousted Mr. Cuomo in 1994.
The letter also warned of “a powerful cadre who would take us back to the ‘bad old days of high taxes, runaway spending, rampant crime, anti-business policies, and a return of the welfare state… . If the powerful old guard liberal forces who helped elect Hillary Clinton gain power, their failed policies will be a disaster for the 18 million people who call New York home.”
Its all to keep New York off that “radical road,” Mr. Pataki wrote.
The fund-raising letter was obtained by the Associated Press yesterday; Mrs. Clintons spokeswoman dismissed the letter, explaining that the senator was not focused on “Republican fund-raising strategies.”

Let there be light

As far as all those rolling blackouts go, some California residents are so fed up, they are looking to a new source of hope.
“We are tapping into the power above, and here on Earth, to bring change,” said Scott Anderson of the California Council of Churches, part of a new religious coalition that is asking thousands of congregations this summer to watch their energy consumption.
“California Interfaith Power and Light” wants the help of some of the states 50,000 religious organizations, including churches, mosques and synagogues.
“As stewards of the Earth, we want to lead by example,” said the Rev. Sally Bingham, co-founder of the new coalition and pastor of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
Nearly two dozen congregations have already pledged to promote energy efficiency, conservation and renewable power. Plans include working with the state in a program to give away fluorescent lights to seniors and low-income communities, distributing a rebate resource guide and helping churches upgrade to efficient appliances.

Taking liberties

Hawaii Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano recently joined Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the Pacific Fleet, and Hollywood hunks Ben Affleck and Cuba Gooding Jr. at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor to remember the 2,400 fallen heroes of Dec. 7, 1941.
“Pearl Harbor” the movie, which stars Mr. Gooding and Mr. Affleck, is about to go into hype overdrive for its opening May 25, including a premiere aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. The U.S. Navy sent the vessel all the way from San Diego to Pearl Harbor just for the party.
But one genuine Pearl Harbor survivor isnt buying it all, and says he wont go see the film.
Harry Ogg, 78, is furious that the movie uses the World War II-era USS Lexington to portray the Akagi, a Japanese aircraft carrier that helped launch the attack.
“I just didnt think it was very appropriate, for the sake of making a little money, that they flew a Japanese flag over that ship.” Mr. Ogg said.

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