- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Horse race

Republicans have only a slight approval edge over Democrats going into the November elections, with tax cuts and wasteful spending topping terrorism as leading factors in choosing a congressional candidate.

A new poll of 1,000 registered voters by Wilson Research Strategies, made available to Inside the Beltway, finds that 53 percent view Republican performance on Capitol Hill as "excellent or good," versus 41 percent who say "not so good or poor."

Democrats' job ratings, at the same time, are viewed positively by 49 percent, with 44 percent responding negatively. These numbers can't be overly reassuring to either party.

In recent days, for instance, Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot warned that Democrats were "only six seats away from a majority in the U.S. House," and he reiterated the devastating defection of Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords to independent status, which threw control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats.

"These are encouraging numbers for Republicans on Capitol Hill. However, they don't necessarily mean the GOP will sweep November elections," says Chris Ingram, principal of Wilson Research Strategies.

"For Republicans, the key will be to keep these numbers strong by talking about things Americans care about most issues like tax relief, addressing terrorism and education. And for the Democrats, the challenge will be to put a dent in those numbers without appearing too negative."

As for the single most important issue, 21 percent of those polled cite cutting taxes and wasteful spending, while 16 percent are concerned with strengthening national defense and fighting terrorism. Other issues in order: improving public education, creating jobs, affordable health care, the environment, protecting Social Security, fighting crime and drugs, reforming welfare, and growth and transportation.

Unwritten script

William F. Buckley Jr. was the man of the hour at the National Press Club last night, where he received the Phillips Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Soon, perhaps, a similar, albeit long overdue, award will be bestowed upon another deserving gentleman, Roy M. Brewer, who happened to be in the audience last night. Mr. Brewer, 92, traveled to Washington from Los Angeles. His name doesn't ring a bell?

During the 1940s and '50s, Mr. Brewer was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood (as Time magazine reported during that era, there were only a few people influential enough to be known around town by their first name only: "Roy" was one of them.)

Mr. Brewer was top representative of the powerful International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). He came to Hollywood in 1945, during the violent industry labor strikes. It was during that period that he found common cause with another industry labor chief named Ronald Reagan.

Together, Mr. Brewer and Mr. Reagan were committed to the goals of keeping the Communist Party from infiltrating their two passions: Hollywood and the Democratic Party. Their efforts made them lifelong friends. In 1949, Fortune magazine described them as two of the most influential figures in the movie business.

Mr. Brewer and Mr. Reagan co-chaired the "Hollywood for Harry Truman" campaign in 1948, and with the likes of John Wayne, Cecil B. de Mille and John Ford helmed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.

Despite his age, Mr. Brewer remains active. Six weeks ago, he wrote an essay for the Los Angeles Times, pointing out that what really took place in Hollywood has been written out of the movie industry's history.

"When I learned that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was planning an exhibition chronicling the so-called Red Scare in Hollywood during the 1940s and '50s, I hoped it would be the beginning of the industry finally acknowledging what really happened during that era," began Mr. Brewer. "But I realize that was wishful thinking.

"Since the end of the Cold War, documentary evidence has emerged showing the depth to which Josef Stalin's agents sought to immerse themselves in American society," he wrote. "Usually, Hollywood prides itself on launching trends. But in coming to grips with the hard truths of the Cold War, this town has consistently been behind the curve.

"More than 50 years ago, Screen Actors Guild President Ronald Reagan and I were on the front lines in the war against communism that wasn't a ragtag group of wild radicals, but was operated by talented, highly trained individuals with amazing power to seduce and manipulate good people.

"Hollywood is a town built on emotion, and the Communist Party preyed on that. I saw firsthand how it operated in secret, like a cult, seeking out artists and laborers. Reagan and I spent countless hours helping to rehabilitate those who wanted to make a clean break from the party and get their lives back. Curiously, the academy exhibit doesn't tell this side of the story."

(Mr. Reagan, fittingly enough, will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal this evening.)

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