- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

Vast, vast
It was in the New York Observer last week that former Vice President Al Gore accused Fox News Channel, The Washington Times and Rush Limbaugh of taking dictation from the Republican National Committee.
Three years ago in the New York Observer, journalist Philip Weiss reported how two Clinton administration officials who later worked for Mr. Gore Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane were peddling a similar theory of right-wing media conspiracy as early as 1995.
During the White House travel office scandal, Mr. Lehane "proudly showed me a report he'd done," Mr. Weiss wrote in November 1999. "It was a thick, blue looseleaf binder of news clippings interspersed with some analysis he'd written. It was titled, bizarrely, 'The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,' and talked about how wild allegations about Bill Clinton got legitimized in the press."
The report described ordinary newsgathering "as a sinister process," Mr. Weiss wrote, and it caused him to think Mr. Lehane "was slightly addlepated." But Mr. Lehane later teamed with Mr. Fabiani to expand the report.
Mr. Weiss writes that he accidentally mentioned the report to a source in Arkansas, who alerted Micah Morrison of the Wall Street Journal, who "got the biggest scoop of his career" by obtaining the 331-page report.
Both Mr. Lehane and Mr. Fabiani worked on Mr. Gore's 2000 presidential campaign and now Mr. Gore is warning about a right-wing media plot that sounds suspiciously like the one described in that 1995 White House report. Conspiracy, anyone?

The coming attack
Louisiana Republicans expect harsh attacks this week as Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary L. Landrieu tries to hold off Republican challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell, the Weekly Standard reports. The election is Saturday.
"If national Democrats aren't publicly rushing to Landrieu's side, staffers from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are working feverishly behind the scenes for her campaign," reporter Stephen F. Hayes writes.
"That has Louisiana Republicans nervous. They're bracing for what they expect to be a harsh, last-minute effort to scare blacks into voting. Rumors were flying last week throughout the Louisiana political community about the specifics of the coming nastiness. And while there was little consensus about the precise nature of the attack, there was widespread agreement that it was coming."

Gephardt's 'Contract'
"For a guy who's been in the leadership a long time, what departing House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt told his staff on the day he decided to quit the leadership to mull over a run for president was surprising," Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.
"'I'm liberated,' he said. 'And I'm excited,' quoted one insider. So much so that aides say he is reviving an idea he had earlier this year to develop a Democratic version of the 1994 House Republican Contract With America. It would be the basis of his presidential platform," Mr. Bedard said.

Ignorance or malice
"What's the most despicable thing you've read in, oh, the last six months?" Jay Nordlinger asks in his Impromptus column at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).
"I know I have my candidate. It came in a movie review by David Denby published in the Nov. 11 New Yorker. Here goes: 'People who are convinced that Eminem is destroying America might want to consider the delicacy of the white-black friendships in "8 Mile." (Perhaps the spectre of such friendships is what right-wingers actually hate most.)'
"That's right: We're trying to keep blacks and whites from being friends of each other, when we're not trying to keep women barefoot and pregnant.
"David Denby is either a very, very ignorant man does he know any conservatives? does he ever get out? or a bundle of malice, in the Sidney Blumenthal/Lewis Lapham mold," Mr. Nordlinger said. "How such a sentence could have been published certainly in 2002 is a mystery."

Rotating 'Cardinals'
"Next to the members of the elected leadership, the most powerful politicians in the House are said to be the various chairmen of Appropriations Committee subcommittees known in Hillspeak as 'The Cardinals.' Thanks to a round of retirements at the end of Congress, those chairmanships are about to be shuffled around," United Press International notes in its Capital Comment column.
"Unlike other committees, the most senior member of the majority party does not automatically take over the chairmanship if a spot opens up. 'Cardinals' with more seniority on the committee are often given the chance to jump to a new chairmanship before the other members of the committee are allowed to rise. Two of the most important subcommittees, in terms of their ability to slice the pork, are now open, meaning that a lot of high-stakes dealing is going on," the wire service said.
"The retirements of Alabama Republican Sonny Callahan, chairman of the Energy and Water subcommittee, and Joe Skeen, who chaired the Interior subcommittee, have most of the lobbyists in Washington who deal with spending holding their breath to see how things turn out.
"If, for example, a sitting 'Cardinal' like Henry Bonilla, Texas Republican, takes over at Energy and Water, then a new chairman must be found for Bonilla's Agriculture subcommittee. It's all a bit confusing and, for the taxpayers, quite a bit expensive."

An extra sheet
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and now presidential hopeful, was asked yesterday about a quote from him that appeared in the New Yorker: "There was plenty of times when I was disengaged, frivolous, four sheets to the wind on a weekend."
Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," told the senator: "I checked the dictionary and I found 'three sheets to the wind.'"
Mr. Kerry replied: "Well, maybe I was truly in excess."
The senator added: "I mean, those were I think I was talking about my college days and post-college and, you know, when we were having fun. We were young Navy officers in San Diego. We had a great time, Tim. We'd come in from our not overly arduous training and go surf for three or four hours and then go out and have a great meal and enjoy our friendship.
"It was a special time, and, you know, I look back on it fondly. I learned a lot from all of that experience."

Polls, schmolls
Sen. John Kerry's weak standing in polls is far from fatal, according to precedents from 1988 and 1992, the last two presidential elections without a Democratic incumbent.
For example, a Zogby International poll of Democratic voters in August had the Massachusetts Democrat as the favored candidate of just 5 percent tied with the Rev. Al Sharpton and unsuccessful 2000 candidate Bill Bradley, and miles behind former Vice President Al Gore, who is at 41 percent.
Not that Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis were juggernauts at this stage, either.
A Gallup poll taken in February 1991 had Mr. Clinton as the choice of just 2 percent of Democrats, behind such figures as George McGovern and Mr. Gore. Even as late as mid-October, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that Mr. Clinton was the choice of just 5 percent of Democrats, far behind front-runners Mario Cuomo, at 27 percent, and Jesse Jackson, at 13 percent.
A June 1987 poll taken six weeks after Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis announced his candidacy still had his name recognition at a low 21 percent. A Gallup poll taken in mid-May had Mr. Dukakis running at just 7 percent, with Gary Hart leading the pack at 36 percent.
However, Mr. Kerry can point to one good result: a Nov. 7-8 telephone survey of Democratic leaders by the Los Angeles Times. In that poll, Mr. Kerry was the first choice of 18 percent of the 312 surveyed members of the Democratic National Committee, just 1 percentage point behind Mr. Gore.


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