Ari Fleischer, spokesman for President Bush, has a reputation for choosing his words carefully sometimes so carefully they never brush a question’s topic.
So when he laid into a Washington Post report yesterday about the purported exodus of high-level Bush administration officials, his words perked up many media ears aboard Air Force One, prompting frenzied calls to editors on the ground.
The exclusive Post story so exclusive it wound up on A17 detailed the imminent departure of White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and White House congressional liaison Nick Calio. Of course, the sourcing was impeccable: “Rumors on K Street” were the premise of the article.
“Laughable,” said Mr. Fleischer in a fit of brevity.
He continued: “We were all kidding each other about it. It’s one of the most it’s a typical silly Washington laughable item.
“We were getting a chuckle out of the sourcing ‘rumors from K Street,’ ‘people close to the White House.’ Those very well could have been tourists standing on the other side of the gate.”
Dud of a scandal
“You may not know it yet in part because the mainstream media doesn’t exactly know it yet but the Enron scandal died over the weekend,” New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.
“Certainly, the details of how a $70 billion company went bankrupt in record time will continue to fascinate, and it may well be that people in and around Enron will deservedly end up in jail,” Mr. Podhoretz said.
“But the dreams of those who hoped that the Enron collapse was going to mire the Bush administration in a scandal bog were dashed on Sunday when two Cabinet secretaries Treasury’s Paul O’Neill and Commerce’s Don Evans flatly assured the public that they had known full well of Enron’s pending calamity and did not intervene to save the company.
“Enron had been the single largest corporate donor in the course of George W. Bush’s brief career as an elected official. And yet whatever dollars Enron may have spent to buy political influence came to naught when the company had only its political connections to save it.
“Barring some shocking revelation, there simply is no political scandal.”
Mr. Podhoretz added: “Last week’s tempest was stirred up with innuendo, guilt by association and hysterically false information. Case in point: An administration official who’s a personal friend told me on Friday that he had sold his Enron stock in February 2001 to avoid conflict-of-interest charges. He had owned $7,000 worth. When the sale went through, he made a profit of $14 that’s fourteen dollars in total. And yet a major TV network referred to him last week as a ‘big Enron stockholder.’”
Zell raises hell
An “angry” Sen. Zell Miller, in his first major speech in Georgia since his election 14 months ago, said he was disgusted with the money politics, cynicism and “bribery” in Washington.
The Democrat told a gathering of the state’s business leaders that Americans will some day rise up “like that football crowd in Cleveland” and run both Republicans and Democrats off the field, Cox News Service reports.
In his speech to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, Mr. Miller “reluctantly” endorsed drilling for oil in the wilderness of Alaska, condemned his own party for opposing tax cuts and suggested a return of the draft.
He also called for a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the intelligence failures that led to the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The 69-year-old Democrat praised President Bush’s wartime performance as “magnificent” and declared former President Clinton’s reaction to a 1998 attack on U.S. embassies in Africa by Muslim terrorists as “a wimpy response.”
Referring to his earlier demand on the Senate floor that the United States should “bomb the hell out of them,” Mr. Miller pronounced himself satisfied with the 24 million pounds of explosives dropped on Afghanistan in the U.S. war on terrorism.
“If that’s not bombing the hell out of them, I don’t know what it is,” he said.
Old Boies Club
Al Gore’s top lawyer during the Florida election-recount fight is being accused of sex discrimination.
Lawyer David Boies was sued yesterday by two former female associates, who say he and his firm paid them less and refused to consider them for partnerships.
The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks unspecified back pay, future earnings, bonuses and damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and humiliation.
Mr. Boies was the former vice president’s lead litigator in his effort to claim Florida’s 25 electoral votes. He made Mr. Gore’s case for partial-ballot recounts before Florida’s trial courts and Supreme Court, before arguing the case all the way up to its defeat before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to Mr. Boies, other defendants named in the suit are his Armonk, N.Y.-based firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and partners Robert Silver and Philip Korologos, Reuters news agency reported.
The suit was filed by Rachel Baird and Bonnie Porter, who were making annual salaries of $112,000 and $114,000 when they left the Boies firm after less than a year.
Both women said in the suit they had been told before they were hired they would not be placed on the partnership track, but they say they had been assured they would not be treated differently than partnership-track lawyers.
“There is absolutely no merit in the claims we understand are being asserted,” said Jonathan Schiller, the firm’s managing partner, in a statement. “These claims follow plaintiffs’ demands for a payment of more than $1 million to avoid the expected adverse publicity from their reported lawsuit.”
Sen. Jean Carnahan, the Missouri widow appointed to the Senate after her husband died in a plane crash, will run for the seat this year.
The news was no surprise; even before taking the oath of office, Mrs. Carnahan, a Democrat, said she would seek to finish the six-year term if she felt she was making a political impact. And she raised more than $2.3 million in campaign money before the year was half finished.
“I’ll be making a formal announcement in the coming weeks,” Mrs. Carnahan, 68, wrote supporters in a letter released yesterday, “but I wanted you to know today that I will run for the U.S. Senate because I feel I am making an important difference for Missouri.”
Appointed to serve after voters chose her late husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, over incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft, Mrs. Carnahan must run for election in November in order to retain the seat. She is likely to face Republican Jim Talent, 44, a former congressman from St. Louis.
GOP gains in poll
The public perception of Republicans has risen significantly in recent months, and the Republican Party has an advantage over Democrats on top issues like the economy and foreign policy, according to a poll released yesterday.
Public preferences in the congressional elections remain about evenly split between the two parties, the poll found. Both parties will hold their winter meetings later this week.
President Bush’s job approval rating in the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll is 83 percent, roughly where it has been since soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Public perception of the Republican Party was evenly split before the terrorist attacks, but now people approve of Republicans by a 2-1 ratio 61 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable.
Democrats are now viewed favorably by 55 percent, unfavorably by 33 percent virtually no change from the way they were viewed before the attacks.