- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Graham for president?
Florida Sen. Bob Graham said yesterday he is seriously considering running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, saying he is not satisfied with President Bush's leadership as the country faces unprecedented economic and military problems.
Mr. Graham, a 16-year senator who also served as Florida's governor from 1978 to 1986, was recently chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He spoke yesterday after he appeared on a Haitian-American radio talk show, where he received several calls asking if he intended to run.
"I'm thinking seriously about options, including the option of running for president," Mr. Graham told reporters. "This is a very difficult time for America. We're facing unprecedented problems in terms of our domestic economy, in terms of our international relations, particularly the war on terrorism and Iraq.
"I'm not satisfied with the direction we are being led today," Mr. Graham said. He said he's "considering what I think could be my contribution toward a new direction for America."
Mr. Graham, 66, said he has not decided whether he will seek re-election to the Senate in 2004 if he does not run for president.
Mr. Graham said his interest in running for president is not a result of former Vice President Al Gore's decision a week ago not to seek the Democratic nomination, which he won in 2000.
The senator said he will be meeting with family members and advisers over the upcoming holidays, but would not say when he hopes to make a decision.
Ode to Osama
"Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state is refusing to apologize for extolling Osama bin Laden as a humanitarian," James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.opinionjournal.com.
"'He's been out in these countries for decades building roads, building schools, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. It made their lives better,' Murray, a Democrat, told a group of Vancouver high school students last week. Her office released a statement Friday crediting the senator with 'having a challenging and thoughtful discussion about America's future' and accusing her critics of attempting 'to sensationalize and distort in an attempt to divide.'
"It's an eerie echo of the Trent Lott episode. In both cases, we have U.S. senators making repugnant comments that reinforce the worst stereotypes about their parties: Republicans as racists, Democrats as sympathizers with America's enemies. The Seattle Times reports that Murray defended her comments as having been 'off-the-cuff,' just as Lott said he was 'winging it' when he praised Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential candidacy of 1948. Murray also claims to be the victim of 'some right-wing media frenzy' and says: 'That is truly frightening to me.'
"Murray's remarks have not brought anything like the national outcry that Lott's did. In part that's understandable, since Lott as majority leader was a more important figure than Murray, the outgoing chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (i.e., architect of her party's loss of the Senate). It's also probably bad news for the Democrats. Whereas the furor over Lott's comments forced the GOP to do the right thing and demote him, Murray's ode to Osama is likely to come back to haunt her in 2004, when she faces re-election. In a state that leans Democratic, but not so far that it tips over, she ought to be beatable."
Murkowski's choice
"When Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski announced he was naming his daughter Lisa Murkowski to serve the two years remaining on the Senate seat he vacated after winning last month's gubernatorial race, he said he wanted someone 'who shares my basic philosophy, my values,'" the Wall Street Journal notes.
"But in the run-up to making his selection, Gov. Murkowski had released a short list of two dozen other possibilities that included assorted state legislators, a former NATO commander and a retired archbishop. What does it say about Gov. Murkowski's view of his party that he would reject everyone else in the state for his own flesh and blood, a two-term state legislator from Anchorage who was just named the House majority leader?" the newspaper asked in an editorial.
"Previously, we'd thought that Papa Murkowski's political low point was his pushing as a U.S. senator for the taxpayers to guarantee an expensive Alaskan pipeline while he was also running for governor. In an Alaskan Senate delegation that hasn't changed in 22 years, Mr. Murkowski's choice smacks more of trying to establish a family dynasty than serving the taxpayers of either Alaska or the U.S.
"For now the Democrats have been largely quiet. No doubt that's because they appreciate that Gov. Murkowski's nepotism will make it harder for Republicans to keep this seat against popular former Gov. Tony Knowles come 2004."
Discouraging numbers
"The first post-Gore Gallup poll for the 2004 Democratic presidential race shows Joe Lieberman in the lead at 25 percent, John Kerry next at 21 percent, Dick Gephardt third at 14 percent and Tom Daschle trailing at 10 percent," Dick Morris writes in the New York Post.
"But what matters at this early stage is not how many votes a candidate gets but how many of those who know him are 'voting' for him," Mr. Morris said.
"By the primaries, voters will know all contenders. Early polls are important only in that they indicate how the candidates will be received. That's why these figures must discourage Gephardt and Daschle.
"Dick Gephardt is known by 65 percent of the primary voters, but manages only 14 percent of the vote. Daschle fares even worse. With 64 percent recognition, he draws only 10 percent.
"John Kerry shows the greatest strength. Known by only 45 percent, he pulls 21 percent. Joe Lieberman, known by 70 percent, gets 25 percent.
"So why are Gephardt and Daschle in such bad shape? As Trent Lott just found out, there is no gratitude for leading your party in Congress. You have to appear partisan all the time, can never duck an issue or hide under a nearby rock, and are out there all the time saying what you have to say whether you want to or not."
Russert's book
NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert has agreed to terms with Miramax Books for a memoir about "fathers and sons," ending an intense bidding war.
The memoir, not yet titled, is scheduled to come out for Father's Day in 2004, the Associated Press reports.
"The book will share the lessons, anecdotes and advice given to Russert by his dad while growing up in Buffalo, N.Y.; about family, faith, patriotism, sports, politics, school, work, cars, relationships and more," according to a Miramax statement released yesterday.
Mr. Russert's representative, Washington, D.C., lawyer Bob Barnett, said yesterday that about 10 publishers competed for the book. Financial terms were not disclosed, but a source close to the negotiations said the deal was worth about $3 million.
Pay up
The liberal Web site Tom Paine (www.TomPaine.com) last week offered $10,000 to anyone who could "unmask" the member of Congress who had slipped a provision into the homeland-security bill to protect drug maker Eli Lilly from lawsuits involving vaccines.
The good news: Rep. Dick Armey, Texas Republican, during an appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," conceded he was the one. The bad news: Mr. Armey's admission came a few days before Tom Paine offered its reward.

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