- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Daschle vs. Johnson

Republicans in Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's home state of South Dakota "are having a field day demanding that incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson 'stand up to Daschle' and defend the [Bush] tax cuts," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.

"South Dakota loves Bush, and Johnson not only voted for the tax cuts, but ran radio ads when the rebate checks went out last summer, touting the 'tax cut that I helped pass in Congress.'

"Still, some Dems try to shrug it off, saying Johnson is likely to lose anyway," Miss Orin said. "Bush personally recruited pro-tax-cut Rep. John Thune to challenge Johnson, and Thune leads by a bit in private polls."


Oklahoma victor

A Republican captured the seat of retiring Rep. Steve Largent, Oklahoma Republican, in a special election Tuesday.

State Rep. John Sullivan will take the U.S. House seat in five weeks, when Mr. Largent steps down to run for governor.

Mr. Sullivan's victory over Democrat Doug Dodd means the balance of power in the House will remain unchanged with 222 Republicans, 211 Democrats and 2 independents.


Literary hecklers

Sometimes being good for business is just not enough.

Take Pat Buchanan, former presidential candidate, pundit and author, who packed the Olsson's bookstore at Metro Center on Wednesday evening to give a short talk and autograph copies of his new book, "The Death of the West."

Two clerks at Washington's self-proclaimed "oldest independent bookstore" a black woman and a white man were intent on disrupting Mr. Buchanan's talk, shouting loudly from behind a counter whenever he made a point they disagreed with, which was frequent enough to prompt some patrons to ask them to be quiet.

Mr. Buchanan's popularity caught the store by surprise. It ran out of copies of the book as soon as his talk ended, forcing one of the unhappy, vocal clerks to scramble to the phone and call other branches for the book.

A couple of people walked down the street to Barnes and Noble to buy copies. Corporate efficiency, anyone? (All of Mr. Buchanan's books are special orders on Olsson's Web site, including the new release. But if you need a copy of embattled Harvard professor Cornel West's 8-month-old book, "Race Matters," well, that can be obtained right away.)

After about an hour of giving his talk and answering questions, Mr. Buchanan signed anything his fans brought him, including a Florida ballot from the 2000 general election. The proud young owner of the collector's item said he bought the entire ballot box in November and hoped to have the four main presidential candidates sign the ballot.

"I have Ralph Nader from last night," he said, referring to Mr. Nader's Tuesday appearance at the same Olsson's. "Now I have Buchanan. I have a feeling it's going to be hard to get President Bush to sign it, though."


Rights fight

In the latest exchange in the dispute over a seat on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the White House has told Chairman Mary Frances Berry that she has no authority to interpret the law creating the panel.

White House Counsel Al Gonzales wrote Miss Berry yesterday in response to her earlier letter asking the Bush administration to respect the panel's independence, the Associated Press reported.

"Your repeated accusations that this litigation will somehow undermine the independence of the commission are unfounded," Mr. Gonzales wrote.

Last week, Miss Berry appealed to the president to drop attempts to appoint Peter Kirsanow, a black lawyer from Cleveland, to replace Victoria Wilson, a white ally of Miss Berry.

Miss Berry contends that Miss Wilson was appointed by President Clinton to a six-year term in 2000 to replace a recently deceased member. However, Miss Wilson's appointment certificate signed by Mr. Clinton said her term expired Nov. 29, 2001.

After showing up for his first meeting last month, Mr. Kirsanow attempted to vote but was ignored. Eventually, he sat silently as the commissioners continued debate. The commission meets again today and Mr. Kirsanow says he plans to attend.

In recent days, Miss Berry also has received a critical letter this week from Rep. Steve Chabot, chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution.

The Ohio Republican said her actions in opposing Mr. Kirsanow's appointment "may be sufficient to justify your removal from the commission for malfeasance in office."

A spokeswoman for Miss Berry said she would not respond publicly to the letters.


Bush's tax pledge

"President Bush invokes anatomy to oppose a tax increase. We've seen this show before," syndicated columnist James Pinkerton writes.

"Fourteen years ago, it was my then-boss, Vice President George H.W. Bush, declaring, 'Read my lips, no new taxes.' On Saturday, it was our president, George W. Bush, saying, 'Not over my dead body will I let them raise your taxes.' And so the contours of yet another election year will be defined by the tax issue, as well as by the quality of a Bush pledge," Mr. Pinkerton said.

"On August 18, 1988, I was among those cheering at the Superdome in New Orleans, when the future 41st president made his famous pledge to the Republican National Convention. The punchy words were from speechwriter Peggy Noonan, but as director of research for Bush's campaign, I had been involved in the formulation of that punchy policy for the previous three years," working with campaign manager Lee Atwater and conservative activist Grover Norquist, Mr. Pinkerton said.

"Yet someone else was involved in the 'pledge' issue in the late '80s. That would be George W. Bush, who then was a mostly broke oil man who had never been elected to anything. He was a helper on his father's presidential campaign; his office was across the hall from mine at Bush campaign headquarters. 'Junior,' as we called him back then, didn't venture many opinions on policy matters, but he was on board for the read-my-lips promising. And while he stayed loyal to his father during his presidency, I always knew, or thought I knew, that the son regarded his father's breaking the pledge as a blunder.

"But now that the 43rd president, having been run and won as an anti-taxer, has reaffirmed the anti-tax pledge in such vividly corporeal language, we'll all find out what he's really made of. Grover Norquist, for two decades the grand master of libertarian Republican ideology, has faith in the new Bush. 'He's going to win on this,' Norquist says cheerfully.

"Others, notably Democrats, will disagree. And that's why we have elections. But if this Bush keeps his promise, then the American people will get an honest debate over the size and bite of government.

"That's a battle one Bush won in '88. Another Bush could win it in '02, and if he keeps the faith, he could win it again in '04."


Clinton vs. Reich

Now that ex-Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich is running for governor of Massachusetts, his former pals from the Clinton administration may try to gain some revenge for Mr. Reich's loud and frequent criticisms of President Clinton.

"People close to Mr. Clinton said they could not imagine that the former president would support Mr. Reich's campaign," New York Times reporter Pam Belluck writes.

"After Mr. Reich left the administration, he was not bashful about criticizing the president. A former Clinton White House official put it this way, 'It will be interesting to see how former Secretary Reich will explain a number of very negative comments in the last several years about President Clinton to Democratic primary voters in Massachusetts.'

"Mr. Reich said he talked with Mr. Clinton and had not been discouraged from running."

One of Mr. Reich's Democratic opponents in the race for governor is Steve Grossman, who served as Massachusetts party chairman and then national party chairman under Mr. Clinton. Mr. Grossman says he has Mr. Clinton's backing.

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