- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

Daschle plays defense
Sen. Tom Daschle apparently is feeling the heat from advertisements in his home state, paid for by conservative groups, that accuse him of obstructing legislation that backers say would be good for the country.
Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat and Senate majority leader, was buying radio and television commercials, scheduled to begin airing yesterday in Sioux Falls, to respond to a spate of critical ads broadcast in recent weeks by conservative groups, the Associated Press reports, citing aides to the senator.
"There's a lot of misinformation that's coming into South Dakota from outside groups and Sen. Daschle feels it's important to set the record straight," said Ranit Schmelzer, the majority leader's spokeswoman.
Since Mr. Daschle is not running for re-election this year, buying commercial time is an unusual move.
Conservative sponsors of some of the ads have also made clear they hope that by criticizing Mr. Daschle, they can weaken the state's other Democratic senator, Tim Johnson, who faces a competitive challenge from Republican Rep. John Thune this year.
The list of Mr. Daschle's critics is a long one.
It includes the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group that has pledged to spend $500,000 on commercials in a one-week buy in the state's two television markets. The group is currently airing an ad that blames Mr. Daschle for "petty partisanship" in opposing tax cuts and the economic-stimulus bill.
According to Mr. Daschle's office, the America's Senior Coalition ran a radio ad targeting the senator in October, and the Tax Relief Coalition pitched in with radio commercials in November accusing him of blocking action on President Bush's economic-stimulus package. A group called Common Sense attacked Mr. Daschle on the radio in December for holding up a Labor Department nomination.
Mr. Daschle's office also reported that United to Secure America, a group seeking immigration-policy reform, had made a "substantial television buy" in the state.

Bad feelings
"Things have reached the point that even small incidents generate bad feelings" between President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, USA Today reports.
"Last month, for example, Bush, Daschle and other congressional leaders were at their weekly breakfast meeting in the White House. Bush's chief liaison with Congress, Nick Calio, was the only staffer in the room. He was taking notes on the conversation when Daschle asked if the leaders could talk privately. Calio got up to leave. Bush rose, too, acting as though he thought Daschle also wanted him to leave the room," reporters Judy Keen and William M. Welch write.
"Calio left, and the meeting continued. But Bush was irritated. He thought Daschle was out of line to ask a trusted White House aide to leave the room. Daschle's advisers say he wanted to make an offer on economic-stimulus legislation and didn't want it leaked to reporters. It leaked anyway."

Helen and Hamas
Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas stands accused of arguing "in support of terrorism." Her accuser: Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary.
At yesterday's White House press briefing, Mr. Fleischer was answering a question from CNN's Major Garrett about U.S. efforts for peace in the Middle East. Mr. Fleischer was discussing the recent Israeli seizure of a shipload of Palestinian terrorist weapons when Miss Thomas interrupted to ask, "Where do the Israelis get their arms?"
Mr. Fleischer began to answer, "There is a difference, Helen, and that is "
Miss Thomas interrupted again: "What is the difference?"
Mr. Fleischer said, "The targeting of innocents through the use of terror, which is a common enemy, for Yasser Arafat and for the people of Israel, as well as "
Miss Thomas: "When people are fighting for their land "
Mr. Fleischer: "I think the killing of innocents is a category entirely different. Justifying killing of innocents for land is an argument in support of terrorism."

Agenda item
The Democratic National Committee says Social Security benefits for widows and other surviving dependents should be extended to include homosexual partners.
The resolution, passed at the DNC winter meeting in the District, states: "Social Security would be strengthened if same-sex partners were treated equally."
The DNC move ignored by the national press, but reported by www.gaywired.com was welcomed yesterday by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which had promoted the policy.
"In taking this historic and precedent-setting step, the Democratic National Committee has committed itself to equality for same-sex partners," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of NGLTF. "Currently, our inability to access survivor benefits costs same-sex surviving partners approximately $100 million a year. We pay into the Social Security system our entire lives, yet in retirement we are denied funds to which we are entitled."
The inclusion of same-sex couples in the program was a policy recommendation of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2000 when it issued what it called "a groundbreaking report on the public-policy issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) seniors." The NGLTF has since conducted training sessions with the DNC, AARP and other organizations, and sponsored a congressional briefing to push its policy agenda.
"The tragedy on September 11 demonstrated the inequality of same-sex relationships in vivid detail as the surviving same-sex partners of those who died found themselves unable to access the same benefits as heterosexual surviving partners," Miss Jean said. "This discrimination is wrong. Social Security and other programs need to be broadened to include access for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families."

Dead heat in New York
The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for New York governor are in a dead heat, according to poll results released yesterday.
The poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute shows former federal Housing Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo and state Comptroller H. Carl McCall each favored by 38 percent of Democratic voters.
A November poll from the institute at Hamden, Conn., had Mr. Cuomo leading by 37 percent to 29 percent.
The two men face each other in a Sept. 10 primary.
According to the latest poll, both men trail Republican Gov. George E. Pataki. The governor led Mr. McCall, the only black candidate ever elected to statewide office in New York, 57 percent to 27 percent. He was ahead of Mr. Cuomo, the elder son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, 59 percent to 28 percent.
Mr. Pataki, who ousted the elder Cuomo from office in 1994, has said he expects to seek a third term this year.
The telephone poll of 893 registered voters Jan. 14-21 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Sharpton wins
"It's time for those who've been trying to keep Al Sharpton confined to the political margins to throw up their hands in defeat," New York Post columnist Eric Fettmann writes.
"The battle's over, and he won. That three-column photo on the front page of [Tuesdays New York] Times showing a grinning Sharpton surrounded by a Who's Who of New York politicos was pretty much the coup de grace," Mr. Fettmann said.
"So Sharpton now finds himself squarely in the political mainstream. Not because of anything he's done or said, of course his sole priority remains getting personal media exposure along the lines of that Times photo."

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