- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

Secret weapon

As the fall elections draw near, Republicans are turning to a secret weapon Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

"Hit-Hillary commercials have already run in Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina. And in a fourth state, Montana, just taking money from Clinton's HILLPAC political action committee is sparking attacks on a Democratic senator," New York Post reporter Deborah Orin writes.

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In Texas, an independent group released a TV ad that features Mrs. Clinton in a "wanted" poster as part of "the East Coast liberal gang" who convinced Democratic Senate nominee Ron Kirk to join "liberal special interests" and oppose a judicial nominee from Texas.

"When you have someone like Hillary Clinton, it immediately identifies a liberal activist agenda," said Bill Nixon, who produced the Texas ad. "It's made to order. It's almost too perfect not to use."

In Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat, ran a radio commercial in which he said, "We can take back the Senate and take Teddy Kennedy and Hillary Clinton out of the majority, out of power and out of the president's way."

In Montana, Republican challenger Mike Taylor has been zinging Democratic incumbent Sen. Max Baucus for taking money from Mrs. Clinton's PAC, calling her an "Eastern liberal" who doesn't "represent Montana values."

Behind the numbers

"What's behind George W. Bush's declining job-approval rating, which, having once hit 90 percent, now stands at 65 percent in the latest Gallup poll?" Byron York asks at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

"Is he losing favor among longtime supporters? Is he losing the support of people who didn't approve of him before September 11 but were won over by his handling of the war on terrorism? Or is he losing the support of people who never really approved of him but who, for a time after September 11, told pollsters that they did?

"A look at more than three dozen Gallup opinion surveys taken since September 11 suggests the last answer is correct. Bush's decline is entirely attributable to the number of Democrats, and some independents, who said they approved of his performance in the months after September 11 but now say they no longer approve," Mr. York writes.

"First, Bush's longtime friends. Republican support for Bush did not skyrocket after September 11 it could not because it was already high. In a poll taken between September 7 and September 10 of last year, Gallup found that 87 percent of Republicans approved of Bush's job performance. Immediately after the attacks in New York and Washington, that number jumped to 95 percent. In early November, it rose to 99 percent, and it has never fallen below 90 percent. In the latest poll, it is 94 percent. Even among those who would be expected to support him most strongly, Bush's numbers are impressive.

"Now look at Democrats. In the last pre-September 11 poll, just 27 percent of Democrats said they approved of Bush's job performance. Immediately after the attacks, that number jumped to 78 percent, and then, in late September, to 84 percent. That was the highest Bush ever scored among Democrats, and the number has been falling ever since. By early December, after the fall of the Taliban and military successes in Afghanistan, it was 76 percent. By early January 2002, it was 69 percent, and by April, it was 54 percent. By June it was 49 percent, which is where it stands now. And the trend suggests there's no reason to believe it won't drop further, especially as the midterm elections approach."

Shows' money woes

"Rep. Ronnie Shows, Mississippi Democrat, who was thrown into the same congressional district as Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering by the post-2000 redistricting, is trailing badly in the race for campaign cash," United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.

"'[Pickerings] got over $2 million in his campaign account,' Shows said recently. 'I've probably got 80 or 90 thousand.' The admission comes several months after Shows' campaign committee was forced to admit to the Federal Election Commission that it had illegally solicited and accepted more than $80,000 in individual, political committee and corporate contributions," the wire service said.

"The dispute was settled in a conciliatory agreement with the FEC in which Shows paid $25,000 in civil penalties.

"National Republicans greeted the news of Shows' financial difficulties with glee. 'If Ronnie Shows is being truthful to Mississippi voters in claiming he only has $80-$90,000 in his campaign fund, he may as well close up shop and get out of this race because he has no chance of winning,' National Republican Congressional Committee Communications Director Steve Schmidt said. 'Based on Congressman Shows' admission, this race is over.'"

Thompson's new role

Retiring U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson is going from Capitol Hill to the New York District Attorney's Office as the newest cast member of "Law & Order."

The Tennessee Republican, who has also been an actor and a prosecutor, will join the NBC legal drama this fall for its 13th season, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Thompson's new character replaces Dianne Wiest as the district attorney, which executive producer Michael Chernuchin said "is definitely a reaction to 9/11."

"His political leanings are a little more to the right than former DAs on the show," Mr. Chernuchin said in a statement Wednesday. "He is a strict constructionist, that is, for him, the Constitution is what it says it is and nothing more."

Challenging AARP

Charles W. Jarvis, head of the United Seniors Association, says the AARP is more interested in promoting big government than in helping senior citizens. And, to prove his point, he has challenged AARP chief William D. Novelli to a September debate on the prescription-drugs issue.

"AARP is dead wrong on prescription drugs. Their support for a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic prescription plan is completely off target," Mr. Jarvis said yesterday in a statement.

"I know that in a public debate on this issue, United Seniors Association will win hands down," Mr. Jarvis said. "We are fighting for what the large majority of seniors want not for what Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton and other big-government politicians want."

Mr. Jarvis added: "Just like the Rainbow Coalition and the United Way, the AARP has operated under the guise of fighting for its members, while working towards its own big-government agenda behind the scenes. They have done nothing to reduce the big tax on Social Security benefits. They are against making last year's tax cut immediate and permanent for seniors. They support a prescription drug plan that would lock seniors into a massive government bureaucracy and cause millions of seniors who already have drug coverage to lose it. If AARP's members knew what the group stood for they would leave in droves."

Lady of the hour

A new exhibit commemorating President Lyndon B. Johnson opened at his ranch in the Texas Hill Country with a ceremony that called for his daughter Luci Baines Johnson to cut a patriotic-colored ribbon.

But at the last second, she handed the scissors to someone else.

"It wouldn't be right for me to be cutting this ribbon," she told a small crowd on Tuesday. "It should be the lady of the hour. C'mon, Mama."

Lady Bird Johnson, just a few months shy of her 90th birthday, reached over and together they snipped the red, white and blue ribbon to mark the opening of "A Hill Country Heritage: The Land and People That Inspired a President and First Lady," the Associated Press reports.

In May, Mrs. Johnson suffered a stroke that hospitalized her in Austin for three weeks and she has since cut back her schedule.

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