- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

Castro, si
A Democratic senator is inviting officials of Cuba's communist government to visit his home state for commercial reasons, even though the State Department has revoked their visas.
According to the Associated Press, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan sent a letter yesterday to Pedro Alvarez, president of Alimport, the Cuban agency that buys food from abroad, and asked him to come to North Dakota to discuss buying wheat and beans.
Mr. Dorgan said he has told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell about the invitation and asked Mr. Powell to see that the Alimport officials get visas.
"If Cuba wants to buy dried beans and wheat, and North Dakota's family farmers want to sell those products to Cuba, the State Department needs to step aside and allow those sales to take place," the North Dakota Democrat said.
The State Department revoked the previously approved visas of the communist officials this month. Mr. Dorgan said the State Department told members of his staff that the visas were canceled because the Bush administration's policy was not to encourage grain trade with Cuba.
Edward Dickens, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the State Department, said it is long-standing U.S. policy to discourage travel in the United States by members of the Cuban government.
Cash grain sales are allowed with the communist-run island under a law enacted two years ago. The law forbids private or public financing of such sales.

Now he tells us
"The pop quiz questions for today: Will a Supreme Court that bars the government from regulating simulated child pornography allow that same government to restrict political speech in the days just before an election? Is the right of any group to use its own funds to criticize a public official less important than the right of a film producer to distribute what Congress and most Americans consider highly objectionable?" Washington Post columnist David S. Broder writes.
"If your answer to those questions is no, as mine is, then you have to wonder what will happen when the high court gets its hands on the campaign finance measure recently signed into law by a reluctant President Bush. My guess is that the statute will emerge as one more unintended example of a 'reform' that damages, rather than improves, our political system," said Mr. Broder, whose own newspaper constantly editorialized in favor of the legislation.
If the high court upholds the law, Mr. Broder said, "The political parties, already weakened by many forces, will have lost a major source of their financing with the outlawing of 'soft money,' while interest groups whose influence has grown by leaps and bounds will be free to play an even larger role in campaigns, thus expanding their grip on government."

Return fire
Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, co-hosts of CNN's "Crossfire," responded this week to reports that Republican officials are boycotting the show because Democrats Mr. Begala and James Carville are unfair to them.
"Well, I have a message for the nameless, gutless whimperers out there. Quit whining," Mr. Begala said on the program.
"Unlike some other shows, we here at 'Crossfire' actually present both sides of the issue. Every single night, we welcome the leading lights of the Republican right on to battle against their ideological foes. Carville and I make no apologies for being tough, nor do Tucker and Bob [Novak]. That's what makes this show different."
Mr. Carlson, for his part, said: "See Paul, this argument is totally funny. First of all, we know just from our bookings that this is not real. We have Republicans on every night.
"But I think more to the point, there's only one Republican ever, I know of, who is afraid of you and James. And that was Jim Jeffords of Vermont. And he already switched parties."

Oral history
"Much has been made of the symposium that the University of Arkansas will host in June on the presidency of Bill Clinton, especially since the university has promised attendees that Clinton himself will not attend," says the Prowler column (www.americanprowler.org).
"'We were fearful he'd show up and want to speak to defend his record and his legacy,' says a Washington-based historian who will take part.
"But even without Clinton, plenty of his supporters will be there to defend his honor. That's because the university, along with the University of Virginia, is underwriting an 'oral history' of Clinton's life and times. (No tittering, please.) More than 400 people are being interviewed for the oral history project, which ultimately will be housed in Clinton's library, but which is being organized and administered by University of Arkansas history professors. 'We'll be there at the symposium, interviewing people and tracking what is being said,' says a Razorback grad student. 'People from Clinton's library will be there too. They want to know who their friends are.'
"Apparently, the library is expecting a flurry of requests for access to Clinton's papers once the library is open. Library administrators intend to dole that access out to friendly researchers first, enemies second, if at all."

Bush blunder?
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy yesterday criticized the administration's Middle East policy.
"When we look at the horrifying violence in the Middle East, something that none of us can overlook, my personal opinion is that the administration blundered badly by staying away when our leadership was needed most," the Vermont Democrat said at a hearing on a Senate panel focusing on terrorism.
"Now whether it's because the president was preoccupied in the war on terrorism or did not want to be identified with a policy that his predecessor was so deeply engaged in, or that they were concerned he may be drawn into a quagmire that could end in a failure, it was a big mistake," Mr. Leahy said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who provided testimony to the panel, responded by saying: "I have to take some exception to your comment that the United States administration, President Bush's administration, blundered badly and that we stayed away and were preoccupied by other matters.
"Immediately upon taking office last year, we became engaged with Senator George Mitchell, your colleague from past days, and encouraged him to remain engaged with the work he was doing with the Mitchell committee. They did. We encouraged the Israelis to participate with Senator Mitchell's group, and they did," Mr. Powell said.
"And we came out with a very fine report that gave us a blueprint of a way to move forward. And we pressed hard to get both sides to enter into that blueprint plan. And unfortunately, we were not successful, but it wasn't because we weren't trying."

Embarrassing moment
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York mixed up two of his black colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee yesterday at a Capitol Hill news conference.
The mistake occurred as Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, was at a podium introducing other House members who were standing behind him. Mr. Barr introduced Mr. Nadler and three other House members but failed to mention Rep. Melvin Watt, North Carolina Democrat.
Mr. Nadler, noticing the omission, urged Mr. Barr to introduce "Bobby Scott." Mr. Barr, without looking back, promptly mentioned "Bobby Scott."
Whereupon Mr. Watt stepped forward and corrected, "I'm Mel Watt." Mr. Nadler covered his eyes with one hand in a gesture of sheepishness.
Mr. Watt and Mr. Scott, Virginia Democrat, are two of only three black men on the Judiciary Committee. The other is ranking Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

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