- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

Man in the moon

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, searching for the right words to express his disappointment that Congress hasn't raised fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles sold in the United States in the last 15 years, stumbled into the wrong words.

"It's unacceptable that we haven't changed fleet mileage averages in 15 years in this country. How many times have we gone to the moon in the last 15 years?" Mr. Daschle wondered to reporters at a briefing yesterday.

Unfortunately for the senator, the last time humans were on the moon was Dec. 14, 1972, when two Apollo 17 astronauts returned to the orbiting command module.

Maybe news just travels slower in Mr. Daschle's home state of South Dakota.

"Hopefully, Sen. Daschle will work with President Nixon to beat those darn Soviet cosmonauts, who continue to hold that '17 days in space' record, and we must get out of Vietnam," said one Republican Senate leadership aide.

Mr. Daschle's knowledge of history didn't get any better as he continued with his "15 years of inaction" theme.

"You know, we've developed the computer and the Internet in the last 15 years," he said.

But the earliest machines with all the characteristics of computers were designed and tested in the 1940s and the first home computers appeared in 1977 with Radio Shack's TRS-80, the Apple II and the Commodore PET.

As for the Internet, Mr. Daschle's claim may have some merit, since Al Gore never told us exactly when he invented it. But purists would point out that the concept of the Internet is based on ARPANET, a 1970s-era project designed to create a computer infrastructure that could connect diverse computers.


Armey's son loses

Political novice Michael Burgess ended Scott Armey's quest to succeed his father in the House, defeating the Denton County judge Tuesday to become the Republican nominee for North Texas' 26th District.

Mr. Burgess, a Highland Village obstetrician, collected 55 percent of the vote in the Republican primary runoff, despite being outspent 3-to-1 by Mr. Armey and drawing opposition from the state's party hierarchy, including House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Sen. Phil Gramm, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

"I realize that it did look like it was insurmountable," Mr. Burgess said Tuesday night as supporters honked car horns in celebration outside a Denton restaurant. "But no one told me it was."

The younger Mr. Armey blamed his loss on low voter turnout and his record of sometimes controversial decisions in his nine years on the Denton County Commissioners Court. Fewer than 20,000 people voted.

Mr. Burgess, 51, will face Democrat Paul LeBon, Green Party candidate Gary Page and Libertarian David Wallace Croft in the Nov. 5 general election. The 26th District covers Denton County and parts of Tarrant, Collin and Wise counties. It is considered a Republican stronghold.


The title bout

"Jim Maloney is the kind of House Democrat who has made a profession out of hanging onto a cliff by his fingernails," USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro writes.

"This three-term incumbent has never won a congressional election with more than 54 percent of the vote. Maloney is again a dangling man this year, because Connecticut's loss of a House seat has placed him in the same district as popular 10-term Republican moderate Nancy Johnson," Mr. Shapiro said.

"All House members dread reapportionment after a Census, but there is no more fearsome fate than suddenly sharing a district with a legislator from the rival party. There are at least three other incumbent vs. incumbent battles on the card for November, but touts view the Maloney-Johnson match in northwest Connecticut as the title bout in the struggle to control the almost evenly divided House."

Mr. Shapiro added: "Two questions dominate this race: Can Maloney make inroads as a partisan Democrat at a time when his party is struggling to present a big-picture alternative to Bush policies? And can Johnson maintain her veneer as a nonpartisan legislator in the midst of a political brawl? The anwers may help determine control of the House and the fate of moderate Republicanism."


Masquerade

"Citizen lawmaking has long been unpopular with the political class. That's why many state legislatures have made it difficult to get initiatives on the ballot. But unions in Washington state are going beyond even these crass tactics," John Fund writes at the www.opinionjournal.com.

"The state labor council tried to cripple an anti-tax initiative by encouraging its members to masquerade as interested volunteers and request stacks of blank petitions, clipboards and signs, all in an effort to drain much-needed resources from initiative supporters in the hopes of preventing the collection of enough signatures to get on the ballot," Mr. Fund said.

"The sabotage directed against Initiative 776, which would roll back the car-licensing tax, began with an e-mail to some 100 union leaders from Diane McDaniel, political director of the Washington State Labor Council. 'Your assistance is needed to help slow down & stop the collection of signatures for I-776, the Tim (Lieman) Eyman creation that would further weaken our state's transportation funding,' the e-mail began. It then asked the union leaders to 'request that a Patriot Packet (campaign kit) be mailed to you' and that they 'forward this request to family members, co-workers, etc. and ask them to do the same.'

"Ms. McDaniel wasn't shy in explaining her motives. She said that, because the I-776 sponsors lacked the financial means to hire a paid signature-gathering firm, mailing 'hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of packets out' will 'cost them valuable campaign resources' and 'help use up their supply of petitions.' She helpfully added: 'Don't use your union's mailing address. Too many requests to send to union halls will tip our hand.' Her closing included another appeal to 'help us slow down and kill I-776.'"


Slow start

Bill Simon, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in California, has raised only half as much money as his Democratic rival since last month's primary, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Simon's slow start in amassing the large contributions needed to wage his fall campaign has prompted concern in Republican circles, particularly since [Gov. Gray] Davis already had $26 million in his campaign war chest when the general campaign opened March 6," reporter Jeffrey L. Rabin writes.

"Simon raised $486,900 in contributions of $5,000 or more in the four weeks after the March 5 primary, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office," and more than a third of that came from three of his sisters.

Mr. Davis, meanwhile, took in more than $1.2 million in large contributions in the three weeks after the primary election, the newspaper said.

However, help is on the way for Mr. Simon, who was scheduled to meet with President Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney at the White House yesterday. Mr. Bush plans to headline two fund-raisers for Mr. Simon later this month in San Francisco and Los Angeles.


By the numbers

Democrats now hold a generic lead in the battle for Congress, according to the latest USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll.

When asked for whom they would vote in their district if elections were held now, respondents chose Democrats, 50 percent to 43 percent. However, the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll shows Republicans ahead, 34 percent to 33 percent.

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