- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

Sen. Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire is making political enemies out of Republican friends in a nasty Senate primary fight against Rep. John E. Sununu that deeply troubles the White House.
Mr. Smith is championing liberal environmental and animal-rights causes and suggesting that two fellow Republicans of Arab descent Bush-Cheney 2000 fund-raiser George Salem and Mr. Sununu, whose father was White House chief of staff during the administration of President Bush's father are soft on Arab terrorism.
"Bob Smith is behind efforts to attack Sununu and use the disgusting smear that because he is of Arab descent, he is pro-terrorist," says Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist. "His campaign has been putting that out as part of their fund raising."
The White House, eager to end the Democrats' one-seat majority in the Senate, is monitoring the New Hampshire contest and has intervened at least once to chastise Mr. Smith for playing ethnic politics.
Top Republicans are privately skeptical of Mr. Smith's chances of defeating popular Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, his likely Democratic challenger. Polls indicate Mr. Sununu has a better chance of beating the governor.
While reducing reliance on Middle Eastern oil sources is a key element of Mr. Bush's war against terrorism, Mr. Smith opposes the lynchpin of the Bush energy policy oil drilling in a small portion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Mr. Smith "seems to be working both sides," says former New Hampshire Gov. Hugh Gregg, a fellow Republican who counts Mr. Smith as a friend. "He was rather conservative at one time, then got mixed up with the environmentalists on Alaska drilling and that put him in the other camp."
Jewish groups are similarly puzzled by Mr. Smith's politics.
"We support the passage of energy legislation that will decrease America's dependence on foreign oil," said Malcolm Honlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. "Clearly, America's security interests dictate we should be less dependent on foreign oil and broadening the sources of oil imports rather than relying on just the Middle East."
White House political aides say privately that Mr. Smith's campaign has violated what they call the "Bush model" for Republican campaigning: "Say what you're for and don't tear down your opponent."
The White House intervened when Mr. Smith criticized Mr. Salem, who raised money for Mr. Sununu while representing a foundation accused of financing Palestinian terrorists.
Mr. Smith alluded to Mr. Salem by saying New Hampshire voters "want someone with clear and concise views on terrorism" and "will judge a congressman based on the people he associates with, his voting record and campaign contributions."
That prompted the White House to phone Mr. Smith's office to say that remarks "that paint Arab Americans with a broad brush aren't helpful" and that "Mr. Salem is a good friend of the president's and an honorable man."
When Sununu campaign donor Ziad Asali said some Muslims may feel that Osama bin Laden represents "legitimate grievances deeply felt in the Arab and Islamic world," Smith campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said, "If that is the type of person Congressman Sununu feels should be contributing to his campaign, then I think that may call into question his views on terrorism."
Smith spokeswoman Lisa Harrison says her boss and Mr. Sununu have disagreements over anti-terrorism policy. "But this has nothing to do with someone's ethnic background, nor would Senator Smith try to make it such, and the media's attempts to do so are most unfortunate," Miss Harrison says.
Sununu supporters note that the congressman voted for $3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel and Mr. Smith did not. But Mr. Sununu also was one of six Republicans to vote against a measure opposing the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and the only Republican to oppose penalizing the Palestinian Authority if it declared an independent state without Israel's consent.
Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matthew Brooks calls Mr. Sununu's voting record "particularly troubling. He was one of only two Republicans who supported federal money going to the Palestinian Authority and has been on the wrong side on votes on issues like making Jerusalem the capital of Israel."
Republican Jewish defenders of Mr. Sununu include former Sen. Warren Rudman of New Hampshire and Mark Isakowitz, a Republican fund-raiser and strategist. "I don't think we'd be talking about anything having to do with Israel or terrorism if Sununu had a different last name or background, and as a Jewish American, that's offensive," says Mr. Isakowitz.
Mr. Smith's effort to appeal to abortion foes, tax cutters, pro-Israel voters, animal-rights activists and environmentalists is "worse than a Republican version of the Rainbow Coalition," says Mr. Norquist. "Smith has fooled himself into believing that if he gives the left what it wants on radical environmental and animal-rights issues, it will support his re-election. But they're just using him. They'll vote for Shaheen, who is liberal on everything."
In July 1999, Mr. Smith quit the Republican Party, which he denounced as "hypocritical," and declared himself an independent. He rejoined the party four months later.


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