- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

Almost embarrassed
ABC News has apparently saved the nine Democratic presidential candidates from the embarrassment of holding their South Carolina debate in a theater named after a staunch defender of slavery.
The South Carolina Democratic Party had announced that the first televised debate of the 2004 presidential campaign would be held in Columbia from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Longstreet Theater, which is named after a secessionist and slavery supporter.
However, ABC, which is sponsoring the debate, announced late Friday that it will be held at a different site, cyber-gossip Matt Drudge reports at his Web site (www.drudgereport.com). It was Mr. Drudge who first reported the potential embarrassment for the Democrats, who have denounced such symbols as the Confederate flag.
ABC planned to announce a new site today, Mr. Drudge said.
The Longstreet Theater's namesake, Augustus B. Longstreet, was president of South Carolina College. His rigorous support of secession caused a fervor that led the student body to enlist en masse when the Civil War began. He argued that the right to hold slaves was determined by the Bible.
Graham's charge
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bob Graham of Florida said yesterday that President Bush has virtually abandoned Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism, which allowed al Qaeda to regroup while he pursued the war in Iraq.
Mr. Graham said that should he be elected president, he would restore the antiterror emphasis, which he said Mr. Bush has let lapse, by putting pressure back on the al Qaeda network and on Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, groups that primarily target Israel.
"I would point out that we have virtually abandoned the war on terrorism; that we have withdrawn military and intelligence capabilities from Afghanistan, and, because of that, al Qaeda has been able to regroup; that we have not taken on the 'A' team of Hezbollah, and the others in Syria and Lebanon; that we have allowed our alliances, which are going to be absolutely critical to winning the war on terrorism, to disintegrate," Mr. Graham said.
"I don't think that's a very impressive national security record."
White House spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish rejected Mr. Graham's charges as baseless, the Associated Press reports.
"The war on terrorism remains a priority and a focus for the president," she said.
Daschle's image
"Top administration officials have been suggesting for months that Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle will change his mind and not run for re-election in 2004. But now they want him to stay," Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.
"Why? His image is so negative that he's helping President Bush. The Winston Group, pollster for Senate Republicans, says in a confidential memo that 'when voters see Daschle on TV, their automatic response is a negative one.'
"Daschle fans just want the Bushies to shut up and stop trying to make Daschle the issue. 'This is all part of the Bush-Karl Rove delay and distract strategy,' an ally tells us. 'They are desperate to tie up the most effective messengers of the Democratic Party.'"
Grassley and Chafee
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Finance Committee, does not think liberal Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island will use the debate about cutting taxes as an excuse to switch parties.
"I have never heard anything from Lincoln Chafee, last year, this year or ever, about his changing parties," Mr. Grassley said yesterday in response to a question from "Fox News Sunday" host Tony Snow.
"I know it's been reported, but I think he feels very comfortable where he is. He votes his conscience, and a person that's comfortable voting his conscience is a person that is very solid in his beliefs, and that's Lincoln Chafee."
Jeb thanks NRA
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush thanked the National Rifle Association Saturday for helping elect his brother president in 2000.
Mr. Bush, the keynote speaker at the group's annual convention, said that based on exit polls, 48 percent of the voters in the 2000 presidential race were gun owners, according to Reuters News Agency reports.
NRA support played a key role in several states, including Florida and Tennessee, the home state of George W. Bush's Democratic opponent, Al Gore.
"Were it not for your active involvement, it's safe to say my brother would not be president of the United States," the younger Mr. Bush said.
The governor said he and his brother support the NRA's position that the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which contains the "right to bear arms," is an individual right with few restrictions.
"The sound of our guns is the sound of freedom," Mr. Bush said, to thunderous applause from the NRA.
Early and often
House Democrats are pledging not to repeat the mistake of the 2002 elections, when lawmakers in safe districts ended the campaign season sitting on $60 million in unspent campaign money.
This time, Democratic campaign leaders are asking their colleagues to contribute early and often. So far, the results dwarf those of two years ago. Democratic lawmakers have transferred $2.1 million from their accounts to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the first three months of the year. In 2001, the amount was less than $650,000.
Overall, the committee raised $7.4 million in the first quarter, a third of what its Republican counterpart took in, the Associated Press reports.
"It was really a shame, because if we would have just gotten one-sixth of that [$60 million], it would have made a difference in some races, and we might have taken the House back," said Rep. Robert T. Matsui, California Democrat and the committee chairman.
Republicans gained six House seats in the midterm elections.
House Republicans have given $125,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Their contributions will pick up later in the campaign cycle, committee spokesman Carl Forti said. "There's no need for it at this point," Mr. Forti said.
Republican lawmakers contributed $20 million to the party's House campaign fund in the last election cycle. Democrats contributed $13 million.
A 'whopper'
The New York Times "continues piling on Sen. Rick Santorum over recent remarks he made regarding gays," the Media Research Center reports in its Times Watch column (www.timeswatch.org).
"Besides reminding us Santorum is 'conservative' in nearly every paragraph, Adam Nagourney and Sheryl Gay Stolberg pen this whopper: 'Mr. Santorum, who has six children, led the Senate fight to ban the procedure opponents call late-term abortion.' Actually, that's just what the Times calls it, as recently as a March 12 editorial and a February 15 news story. (Stolberg herself used the term back in 1997.) What opponents really call it (and which the Times never will) is the more graphic and accurate 'partial-birth abortion.'"
Blame Clinton
"Last month Sen. John Kerry accused President Bush of having 'botched the diplomacy' in the run-up to Iraqi liberation," James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.opinionjournal.com.
"Maybe the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, should be running against Bill Clinton. London's Guardian reports that 'Tony Blair took repeated secret advice from … Clinton on how to unlock the diplomatic impasse between Europe and the U.S. in the buildup to the war on Iraq.'"

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