- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

Loose goose

There are rumors afoot that Sen. Richard C. Shelby might bolt the GOP should the Senate remain in Democratic clutches after November. The Alabama Republican was originally elected as a Democrat in 1987 and went Republican seven years later.

"He's fed up with Bush and Republican bungling in the Senate," said one Democratic leadership staff member who claims Democrats have met with Mr. Shelby to raise the possibility of his return.

"Senator Shelby has never discussed jumping parties," countered one of his staffers. "His decision to switch parties in 1994 was based on ideological beliefs and values and was approved by his constituents. He's not going to change parties again simply because of politics or perceived politics."

It could all be sassy mischief, though. Some think the Democrats are deliberately floating rumors to irk Republicans pining for a GOP return come November. They can almost taste it, what with the tough re-election battles of Democrats Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jean Carnahan of Missouri.

"It's just another way the Democrats are creating doubt in the Republicans. It's gamesmanship," said a Democratic staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

No little Reagan Nixon

"Let me give you the real story behind the Reagan Nixon Jeffords comment," writes Leonard Jeffords, son of Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent.

Yesterday, this column noted that the younger Mr. Jeffords once "threatened" to name his firstborn son Reagan Nixon Jeffords after his father left the Republican party a year ago.

"First, it was a joke. A joke that somehow was taken out of context. There was never any malice intended or involved. Nobody actually ever verified the comment or got the story straight," Mr. Jeffords explained.

"Secondly, we are not expecting any children anytime in the next nine months. To set the record straight, we are Republicans so are millions of other Americans. Last we checked, it is not a crime to believe in a political ideology different than my father. The entire Jeffords family has fully supported Jim Jeffords' decision to become an independent as he is happier as an independent. After all, it was his decision to make and to live with. And when either little Reagan Nixon comes along, you will be the first to know. (By the way, that's a joke.)"

Royal-free zone

Photographers were almost barred from President Bush's press conference on homeland security last night, owing to one photo that sullied the presidential image.

Normally, some 15 photographers snap Mr. Bush during televised speeches which was the case last fall when he went on national TV during the first day of U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan.

One news-wire photographer, however, got a little too artistic, framing the president from below with a wide-angle lens. The photo, which was reprinted in newspapers, made Mr. Bush appear to be sitting upon an imperial throne.

"The big guys were upset over the connotations of the image. Here we are bombing, and this guy's sitting on a throne," said one White House-credentialed photographer. "So this time, they decided to deny us access."

Late yesterday, though, the White House relented and announced that a five-person "pool" of news wire, magazine and newspaper photographers would be allowed in during Mr. Bush's TV appearance.

"This is still a big deal to us," said the photographer. "It means the White House is capable of holding a grudge. It's one more way the big guys want to control things."

30 seconds with Gray

California Gov. Gray Davis' multimillion-dollar TV campaign is under way against Republican challenger Bill Simon. And here's what he has to say in a spot called "Vigilant," created by Washington-based Doak, Carrier, O'Donnell & Associates:

"Over the last four years, I've signed the toughest gun-safety laws in the nation. We've created a Department of Managed Care and helped 40,000 people fight their HMOs and win. I hope to double that number. We've protected our coastline, air and water, but we must be ever vigilant. I've signed new laws protecting a woman's right to choose, but we must face down every threat to that right. We've made progress, but there's more to do. Above all, I'll keep working hard to do what's right for California."

Tax attack

One Democratic state legislator would like to place a five-cent tax on each bullet sold in California. Sen. Don Perata from Oakland said the tax could raise up to $21 million a year for hospital emergency rooms.

His bill has cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and now goes to the Revenue and Taxation and Constitutional Amendments committees. Sen. Ray Haynes predicted fellow Republicans would uniformly vote against the measure.

If the bill is approved by both chambers, voters would decide the matter in November.

Meanwhile, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms suggested legislation requiring anyone convicted of shooting someone to pay their victim's medical costs before they are freed from prison. The California Rifle and Pistol Association proposed a 25-cents-per-bullet tax credit for gun owners "for the tremendous public benefit their firearms provide."

Sandra's sensitive stage

Comedian Sandra Bernhard is offended by politicians she says exploit September 11, though she has just opened a stage show called "Hero Worship," based on the attacks.

She's sick of the "day-to-day [expletive] that came out of Washington," according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

"After a month went by, I sat and thought about the whole reaction of the Bush administration and their deflection of the reality of it all. They're hiding behind the terrorism and the evil and the'bad guys' like something out of a John Wayne movie," Miss Bernhard said.

"But there's something inherently evil in our own country. I feel like we need to look from within to change the negativity and the darkness and not make out [Osama bin Laden and his followers] as the bad guys. They're [expletive] people, but it's more complex than that."

She is also critical of TV, musical tributes and TV news, relying on the New York Times and New Yorker for updates. But isn't she exploiting September 11 herself?

"Not really," Miss Bernhard said. "It's not like I'm asking for donations. It's just what I want to talk about."

Party at USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans a Gay and Lesbian Pride Month celebration June 13 and hopes all employees will participate. An agencywide USDA memo sent Tuesday afternoon by Lou Gallegos, assistant secretary for administration, says:

"One of our nation's greatest strengths is the rich diversity of its people. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans form an important part of this national tapestry and have contributed to every facet of our society. All too often, however, these citizens have been marginalized, discriminated against, and even attacked for who they are."

The memo cited both the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and Executive Order 13087, which prohibits sexual-orientation discrimination in the federal workplace.

"Preventing discrimination is not enough; diversity should also celebrated. USDA is known as 'The People's Department.' The services we provide touch the lives of every American, and we are proud that our employee population is a microcosm of American society. Thus, it is only fitting that we recognize, respect, and welcome all of our employees and customers within the USDA family, without regard to sexual orientation."

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