- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Kirk's blunder

Ron Kirk, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas, appears to have blundered by suggesting that his Republican opponent, John Cornyn, favors military action against Iraq because minorities and poor people supposedly would be first in line for the front.

"Look who would be doing the fighting," Mr. Kirk said Friday in San Antonio after a joint rally with Tony Sanchez, the Democratic candidate for governor. "They're disproportionately ethnic; they're disproportionately minority."

Mr. Kirk said that if the children of Mr. Cornyn's wealthy friends and acquaintances were destined to be on the front lines, "he would be just as deliberative as the rest of us."

As if that weren't enough to get him into trouble, Mr. Kirk added: "I wonder how excited they'd be if I get to the United States Senate and I put forth a resolution that says the next time we go to war, the first 500,000 kids have to come from families who earn $1 million or more."

Mr. Kirk issued a statement on Saturday in which he tried to downplay his earlier remarks.

"My comments yesterday were intended to be mindful of those that will serve on the front lines of this battle our middle-class children and our neighbors' children," Mr. Kirk said. "Any discussions about the war in Iraq must include the potential dangers all our soldiers will face overseas."

Help for Alexander

President Bush will be in Tennessee today supporting Republican Lamar Alexander, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Rep. Bob Clement.

The president will speak at a $1,000-per-person fund-raising lunch for Mr. Alexander at the Nashville Convention Center.

In addition, the president's father, former President George H.W. Bush, will be in Knoxville tomorrow and Vice President Richard B. Cheney will be in Memphis on Thursday, both supporting Mr. Alexander, the Alexander camp reports.

Mr. Alexander is a former Tennessee governor who also served as education secretary under the senior Mr. Bush.

After today's lunch, Mr. Bush is expected to attend an event at East Literature Magnet School in Nashville, along with Mr. Alexander, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Mr. Clement.

The Clement camp noted that in addition to being invited to the magnet-school event, Mr. Clement will fly back to Washington on Air Force One with the president.

"Congressman Clement hopes to be able to talk to President Bush about the unraveling economy, as well as lowering the costs of prescription drugs and allowing people and their doctors to make health care decisions instead of the HMOs," Clement campaign spokeswoman Carol Andrews told reporter Amy Fagan of The Washington Times.

Kevin Phillips, spokesman for the Alexander camp, said that "the plane ride is an opportunity for the White House to ask Bob Clement why he votes in support of the president only 52 percent of the time."

Polls show Mr. Alexander leading in the race, although the margin is disputed.

Tied in Alabama

Alabama Gov. Donald Siegelman, a Democrat, and Republican Rep. Bob Riley are running even in the governor's race less than two months before the Nov. 5 election, a new poll shows.

The survey, released Sunday by the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and WHNT-TV in Huntsville, showed 45 percent support for Mr. Riley, compared with 43 percent for Mr. Siegelman. Ten percent of respondents were undecided and 2 percent backed Libertarian John Sophocleus.

The margin of error in the survey conducted by pollsters at the University of Alabama at Birmingham was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The random telephone survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Sept. 9-12.

Lesson from Florida

"The primary election in Florida last Tuesday seems like deja vu all over again. A Clinton subordinate goes down to defeat amidst charges of voting irregularity and misadministration. Minority-group leaders claim disenfranchisement and blame the president's brother. A media circus ensues," John Samples writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

"But the media have missed a nice conservative lesson from Florida (imagine that!). Conservatives know that reforms often beget more problems, leading to more reforms and more problems. So it was last Tuesday," said Mr. Samples, who is director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute.

"Many of the problems in Florida are a result of election reform itself. As you might recall, Florida responded to the 2000 debacle by quickly enacting election reform, including expensive and cutting-edge voting machines. Technology, the great and the good intoned, will make everything better.

"Last Tuesday, as conservatives would expect, human foibles subverted the fancy technology. Poll workers simply didn't show up for work. Some didn't know how to turn on the machines. A few left their polling place unattended. Other election workers simply showed good sense, as the New York Times reported: 'A polling place in a Lions Club hall shut down two hours before the state-mandated 9 p.m. extension because the club bar opened at 7 p.m.'

"We should expect that forcing wholesale changes in something as complicated as running an election would lead to problems. It's surprising that we saw so few difficulties in Florida. The urge to perfect through comprehensive reform usually leads to much worse outcomes."

Two theories

"Are the Dems Getting Nervous?" Mickey Kaus asks in his Kausfiles column (www.slate.msn.com).

"Hmm. It seems like only a few weeks ago Democrats were acting as if they didn't care whether Congress reauthorized the 1996 welfare-reform law this year or put off the issue until next year. The Dems seemed to believe they were going to retake Congress and could get a better deal next year anyway. But now Democrats are urging Majority Leader [Tom] Daschle to take up the welfare issue and emitting let's-make-a-deal cooing noises. Why?

"Possible theories: Theory No. 1: Democrats (as predicted in this space) realize they are now in a bad position going into the election. The Republican House has done its work and passed a bill. The Democratic Senate has not, in part because the Finance Committee's version veered off to the left by, for example, allowing education to substitute for work. ('Go on the dole, and we'll pay you to go to school!')

"That leaves Daschle legitimately vulnerable to the charge that he's obstructed a popular bill. Worse, it leaves Democratic House members on record as having voted against the Bush-supported welfare reform in the House. (Many may have assumed they'd get a second chance to support a compromise bill, but they won't if there's no deal.) Theory No. 2: Maybe Democrats are no longer so sure they're going to retake the House and hold the Senate."


"Red-blooded writer Hampton Stevens says he got fired from the New York Times after professing his lust for right-wing blondeshell Ann Coulter," the New York Post reports.

"Stevens, an independent contractor who hosted the op-ed forums on NYTimes.com, claims he was canned shortly after some salty statements he made about the coltish Coulter appeared in the New York Observer," the Post said.

"'The New York Times has every right to hire and fire as they please,' he told us. 'But I think I should be free to express my opinion.'

"A Times spokesman told us: 'Hampton Stevens moderated an online forum for NYTimes.com on a free-lance basis. His free-lance project is now complete.' "

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