- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The coming furor
"This coming summer, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is likely to legalize gay marriage," Stanley Kurtz writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).
"If that happens, a convulsive national battle over gay marriage will break out right in the middle of the next presidential-election season. The ultimate outcome of our coming national culture war over gay marriage will either be legal gay marriage throughout the United States, or passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. There will be no middle ground," Mr. Kurtz said.
" Right now, hardly a politician in the country wants to talk about gay marriage. Liberals fear that favoring it will mark them as culturally radical. Conservatives fear that opposing it will label them as hard-hearted 'homophobes.' Like abortion, politicians dread the gay-marriage issue because it cannot be easily compromised. Yet after Massachusetts acts, and the campaign for the Federal Marriage Amendment kicks into high gear, every politician in the country, and certainly every presidential candidate, will be forced to take a stand on gay marriage.
"It's difficult to say exactly how the gay-marriage issue will play out politically, but the likelihood is that it will help the Republicans. Substantive issues aside, a court-imposed national culture war over gay marriage would be the most powerful conceivable illustration of over-reach by liberal judges. Every Republican will begin his statement on gay marriage the same way: 'Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of this issue, this is a matter for the people of this country to decide through their elected representatives, not something that should be imposed on them by the courts.' The Republican case for the appointment of strict constructionists will never be stronger than during the next campaign."

Bad news for Gore
Al Gore cannot be pleased by the latest CBS-New York Times poll, published yesterday.
The survey of 996 adults, conducted Nov. 20-24, found that just 19 percent of Americans had a positive view of the former vice president, while 43 percent had an unfavorable view.
"The unfavorable perception of Mr. Gore crossed party lines: about one-third of Democrats viewed him favorably, compared with about one-fifth who viewed him unfavorably," the New York Times said.
"Of potentially more concern to Mr. Gore, just 17 percent of independent voters said they had a favorable opinion of him, compared with 36 percent who described their view as unfavorable."

Beyond the hysteria
"The Bush administration last week scrapped Clinton-era rules requiring that almost any modification to a power plant, refinery or factory be accompanied by the installation of the best available pollution controls. Now the Greens are throwing a fit," Thomas J. Bray writes at www.opinionjournal.com.
"Instantly, calls came out for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Todd Whitman to resign. Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey complained to the New York Times of a wave of asthma-inducing pollution and suggested acidly that the administration's environmental policy consisted of regulating softly and carrying a big inhaler. The attorneys general of seven Northeastern states, who are claiming that they are being inundated with Midwestern soot, threatened to sue," Mr. Bray noted.
"'The Environmental Protection Agency is stripping away vital, cost-effective clean air measures that have protected Americans from the harmful effects of industrial pollution for a quarter century,' inveighed Environmental Defense senior attorney Vickie Patton. 'Today's action puts Americans in communities across the country at serious health risk by exempting thousands of power plants, refineries and other major industrial facilities from fundamental air pollution controls.'
"The Bush proposal does no such thing. It may even allow utilities to run their plants more efficiently and thus reduce pollution. Although we won't really know all the details until after the lengthy review process, it seems clear that the EPA is simply restoring the New Source Review to how it worked when it was created two decades ago. The idea is this: Plants should use the best pollution fighting technology available. So the Clean Air Act requires new plants to use such technology. But existing plants were exempted, in recognition of the humongous expense it would take to upgrade.
"However, if substantial improvements were made to an existing plant, it was then subject to the mandates to use the best available technology for reducing pollution. Plants that violated agreed-upon emissions caps were also subject to the tighter pollution mandates. Over time, as old plants were phased out or upgraded, emissions would diminish.
"This wasn't good enough for the Clinton EPA, eager to prove its bona fides with the green community. In its view, almost any change to an existing plant should trigger New Source Review. The problem is that this made even small upgrades so expensive that it became cheaper to leave less efficient plants in operation, even when small and relatively inexpensive improvements could marginally decrease the pollution of that plant."

The Maine dispute
The Republican Party dropped an appeal to the Maine Supreme Court yesterday, clearing the way for the evenly divided state Senate to decide a disputed election for its final seat.
The Republican withdrawal freed Gov. Angus King to certify election results showing Democrat Chris Hall as the apparent winner over Republican Leslie Fossel by nine votes, the Associated Press reports.
But the battle isn't over: Republicans will make their case on 44 disputed ballots to the state Senate, which will decide which candidate will be seated, as stipulated in the Maine Constitution.
The Senate will take up the election after it is seated on Dec. 4.
"I think the fat lady is singing," Mr. Hall said. "I'm just relieved that it's all over. It has been an unpleasant three weeks."
At stake is which party gets a majority in the 35-member Senate, currently split at 17 seats for each side. A Hall victory would give Democrats considerable sway over the state's political agenda, with control of the governor's mansion and both legislative houses for the first time since 1986.
Mr. King, an independent, is stepping down after two terms.
Mary Small, the Senate Republican leader, said she hoped the Senate would appoint an impartial entity possibly the high court to review the disputed ballots and make recommendations.
Among the disputed ballots, some were declared void because voters used a pen instead of a pencil. Others were rejected because voters circled or underlined the candidate's name, instead of filling in the line on the ballot.

Restrictions derailed
A federal judge blocked the government yesterday from enforcing new campaign-finance restrictions that would have kept a pro-life group from airing political ads in upcoming special congressional elections in Hawaii.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy granted a temporary injunction sought by Hawaii Right to Life, enabling the organization to air ads in special elections scheduled for this Saturday and Jan. 4, the Associated Press reports.
The group said it will begin airing ads today.
Although the group claims the new restrictions are unconstitutional and prevented it from stating its views on the elections, it won the injunction by focusing on a narrower issue.
The judge agreed with the pro-life organization, and ruled it was a "qualified nonprofit group" that by law should be exempt from the government's new political ad restrictions.
Judge Kennedy said the pro-life group qualified for the exemption because it had received at least $50 in corporate contributions.
The ruling is a setback for the Federal Election Commission's effort to begin implementing the new campaign-finance law Congress passed earlier this year. The law, also known as McCain-Feingold after its sponsors, Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, puts new limits on political donations and advertising.

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