Al Gore returned to the political fray Saturday night, attacking President Bush’s domestic policies during a speech in Nashville, but some Democratic members of the U.S. Senate indicated they are less than enthusiastic about making Mr. Gore their presidential nominee in 2004.
North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan “laughed uproariously” when asked about supporting Mr. Gore again, New York Times reporter Richard L. Berke writes.
“Al Gore lost North Dakota by 28 points,” Mr. Dorgan told the reporter. “The entire ticket went down with him in North Dakota. When you lose by 28 points, that’s a mega-landslide.”
Louisiana Sen. John Breaux said of Mr. Gore, “Things change. In politics, it’s here today, gone tomorow. It’s a whole new scenario right now. You have to be likeable before they can vote for you.”
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who is said to be close to Mr. Gore, also demurred when asked by Mr. Berke whether he would support a Gore candidacy again.
“We have to see what the lay of the land is,” Mr. Harkin said. “It would be harder for him because he’s not the sitting vice president.”
In addition, Mr. Harkin expressed doubt about Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s pledge not to seek the Democratic presidential nomination if his old running mate, Mr. Gore, enters the contest.
“It’s easy to say that now,” Mr. Harkin said of the Lieberman pledge. “But when the fever hits you, you don’t know.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, says she is not pleased with a campaign ad released last week by the North Carolina Democratic Party that tries to link Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole to Enron.
In the ad, the narrator notes that on September 11 Mrs. Dole pledged to put her campaign on hold. But nine days later, the ad says, she flew to a “secret fund-raiser hosted by Kenneth Lay,” the former chairman of Enron. The bankrupt Houston-based energy trading firm, which gave large contributions to both Republican and Democratic political campaigns, is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
“I don’t happen to like this,” Mrs. Feinstein said in an interview Saturday on CNN’s “Target: Terrorism” after the ad was played for viewers. She added:
“Look, I have never gotten any money from Enron. Now would I, two years ago, have accepted a check from Enron? A small probably a $1,200 contribution yes, probably. There was nothing to have prevented it at [the] time. I didn’t know that much about Enron. I don’t necessarily know that much about a lot of individuals that contribute to me. I mean, I’ve had more than 100,000 individual contributions.”
Asked by CNN’s Jonathan Karl if she believes this kind of ad is a mistake, Mrs. Feinstein said, “I think it’s a mistake yes.”
Mitch Daniels, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, last year led a failed effort to cut back on congressional “earmarks,” the term used to describe pet projects that members of Congress identify for funding without authorization or hearings.
Interviewed Saturday on CNN’s “Novak, Hunt & Shields,” Mr. Daniels was asked if he’s going to try again to crack down on earmarks, given the pressure on the federal budget at this time and the concerns about deficits.
Mr. Daniels said the administration remains convinced that curtailing earmarks is the “right policy.” So, “we will certainly not recommend repeating all the earmarks that Congress chose to insert in the last year.”
Then he was asked about what pundit Robert Novak described as “one of the most notorious earmarks.” The one in question sharply criticized by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and others was a deal to have the Air Force lease a number of Boeing planes.
“Tremendous cost to the taxpayer. That was passed, signed by the president. Is this money actually going to be spent for this corporate welfare for Boeing?” Mr. Novak asked Mr. Daniels.
The White House budget chief replied in a way that combined uncertainty, caution, and diplomacy.
“I don’t know if the transaction will happen or not. There are right and wrong ways to do leases. If they’re done right, they do protect the taxpayers’ intersts.” Mr. Daniels said.
“We have laid out a way to do this that would be justified. I’m not sure if the parties will be willing to go forward or not,” he said.
With his political career hanging in the balance, longtime Ohio Rep. James Traficant will defend himself as he stands trial beginning today on federal racketeering, bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
The nine-term Democrat has denied charges that he used his influence as a congressman on behalf of local businessmen, cheated on his taxes, shook down his House employees and even turned some of them into farmhands.
Instead, Mr. Traficant, who could face at least 43 years in prison and $1.2 million in fines if he is convicted, says the charges are “a classic example of what has happened to the United States of America.”
“The elected officials are beautiful people, but the government is run by midlevel bureaucrats who wield tremendous power,” he said when the indictment was announced last May.
“My case will show that the American people are not afraid to stand up to a government that has become so powerful that it can intimidate and destroy Americans’ lives and their rights, without concern of oversight or retribution.”
Mr. Traficant lost a bid Friday to have the trial delayed after a judge dismissed a civil suit the congressman had filed in a separate court claiming that prosecutors had violated his civil rights, Reuters news agency reports.
The 60-year-old former county sheriff from the gritty steel-making belt around Youngstown has at least one reason for optimism: Though not a lawyer, he successfully defended himself against a federal corruption charge a year before he was first elected to Congress.
“What Mr. Bush did with that speech Tuesday night was akin to Chuck Yeager strapping the entire Democratic Party into an X-1 and taking the whole lot of them up to 80,000 feet at Mach 2. They were in ideological air they’d never breathed before,” Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger writes.
“‘Let’s roll,’ the president announces. First he talks about hunting down thousands of human time bombs. Then he heads to North Korea, Iran and Iraq and rolls them through a 360 around the ‘axis of evil.’ About now, Tom Daschle’s smooth smile is touching the back of his neck. But he won’t stop; now the president is saying ‘I will not wait on events while dangers gather.’ Sweat is running down Joe Biden’s legs. Teddy shifts, thinking his seat in the House is starting to come apart; surely this guy is going to ease off.
“Instead, the one-year president invokes History, itself, which ‘has called America and our allies to action,’ and says that ‘it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom’s fight.’ Barbara Boxer thinks her head is being pulled through the Capitol dome. A voice inside Hillary’s helmet is saying, ‘We’re going to survive this: see if you can move your hands and applaud.’”