- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ashcroft haters

To get a sense of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s unpopularity in certain circles, “all you had to do was listen to the leading Democratic presidential contenders in Iowa last week,” writes USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro.

“For a Democrat craving an applause line, a denunciation of Ashcroft even tops a snarky reference to his boss, George W. Bush,” Mr. Shapiro said.

“In a back yard in Indianola, Richard Gephardt announced, ‘When I’m president, we will have an attorney general … ‘ and interrupted himself midthought to add, ‘And he won’t be John Ashcroft, I can tell you that.’ At a tiny library in rural New Hartford, Howard Dean declared, ‘John Ashcroft is too busy snooping through the public libraries to enforce the country’s antitrust laws.’ …

“But the Democrat who devotes the most energy and passion to challenging the Ashcroft record is John Edwards,” the columnist said.

In the town of Waverly, Mr. Edwards told a crowd, “I want to say this loud and clear: We cannot in this effort to fight this war on terrorism allow people like John Ashcroft to take away our rights, our freedoms.”

Bush haters

“Whatever else may be said about the base of the Democratic Party, it most definitely is upset with President Bush,” Terry Eastland writes in the Dallas Morning News.

“Democratic pollster Geoff Garin says that in his 25 years of polling, he never has seen Democrats so angry with a Republican president. Veteran columnist Robert Novak writes that he hasn’t seen such ‘pure hatred’ on the part of Democrats toward a Republican president in his 44 years of campaign watching,” said Mr. Eastland, publisher of the Weekly Standard, which reprinted the column at its Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“The Democratic activists who dominate the party’s presidential primaries will pick the nominee. So, it isn’t surprising that Howard Dean has become the front-runner by tapping their anger — nor that the other candidates are copying him.

“The case being made against Bush is that, on matters both foreign and domestic, he misleads if he doesn’t intentionally lie and that his presidency endangers not terrorists, but law-abiding Americans. That is a harsh indictment that, while pleasing to the base, has yet to appeal to voters in the middle who don’t share the Democratic hatred toward Bush and don’t regard his presidency as a continuous act of deception designed to destroy America.

“Maybe the Democrats — and their eventual nominee in particular — will offer a more credible critique of Bush. Maybe, having undergone an attitude adjustment, they will be able to appeal to independent voters. On the other hand, the Democrats may be in a place from which they can’t easily escape.”

ABA priorities

“How many lawyers does it take to protect American soldiers in Iraq from indictment on ‘war crimes’ charges in European courts?” the Wall Street Journal asks.

“The answer, as provided by the American Bar Association, is zero,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“Meeting in San Francisco last week, the nation’s best-known legal organization passed up an opportunity to take a shot at a strange legal notion known as ‘universal jurisdiction’ as it applies to uniformed soldiers. That’s the doctrine under which General Tommy Franks was sued in Belgium (until Donald Rumsfeld threatened to relocate NATO headquarters out of Brussels) and three American soldiers currently face a lawsuit and possible indictment in Spain. Never mind that the alleged ‘war crimes’ took place in another country on another continent.

“A mildly worded resolution criticizing the practice was prepared by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security and presented to the House of Delegates, which decided not to consider it. The failed resolution also contained a statement of confidence in military justice, pointing out that the U.S. military has ‘adequate procedures for investigating and prosecuting war crimes.’

“The ABA has other priorities. On the same day that it deep-sixed the resolution on universal jurisdiction, it passed another resolution criticizing the Defense Department for the rules under which accused terrorists in U.S. custody will be tried. This is the latest in a string of ABA expressions of concern about the legal rights of terrorist suspects. As for the legal rights of U.S. soldiers, the ABA apparently doesn’t consider them worthy of its attention.”

Union courting

An AFL-CIO endorsement of Rep. Richard A. Gephardt for president “is admittedly a long shot” for the Democrat, who has staked his presidential hopes on the support of organized labor, his campaign manager said yesterday.

Mr. Gephardt’s campaign appears to be lowering endorsement expectations in advance of a mid-October meeting where union leaders will decide if the Missouri congressman has enough labor support, the Associated Press reports.

“Our strategy is to either win an AFL-CIO endorsement, which is admittedly a long shot, or get the process concluded relatively early so that we can … get our labor support into play in the early states,” said Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy.

The bar is high: two-thirds support from the collective memberships of union presidents at the general board meeting. The AFL-CIO has 65 affiliate unions with 13 million members.

Only two candidates have won the federation’s endorsements before any primaries — Al Gore in 2000 and Walter Mondale in 1984.

“Getting to two-thirds, as our detractors point out, is very difficult to do,” Mr. Murphy said.

Vilsack’s views

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said his state’s Democratic presidential caucus is a three-way race among Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. But he hasn’t completely counted out Sen. John Edwards yet.

Mr. Vilsack said Mr. Edwards could catch on in coming weeks with new commercials airing in the state and a unique message that could appeal to Iowa voters, the Associated Press reports.

The North Carolina senator is the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to help parents pay for college, Mr. Vilsack said. And while the other three talk about overhauling the nation’s health care system, Mr. Edwards talks about smaller steps like addressing the nursing shortage.

“Edwards is going to get a second look by Iowans here,” Mr. Vilsack said Tuesday during an interview at the National Governors Association summer meeting in Indianapolis. “We’ll know more in the next 30 to 45 days.”

‘Recall’ effort

A new Democratic group, called the Fair and Balanced PAC, takes a page from the effort to oust a Democratic governor in California, calling its Web site “bushrecall” and garnering support through petitions, the Associated Press reports.

The PAC plans to launch its www.bushrecall.org Web site today. Its founders include Joe Lockhart, a press secretary to former President Bill Clinton, and Mike Lux, a Democratic political consultant.

Since the Constitution provides no way to recall a president through a ballot initiative, as California voters have a chance to do to Democrat Gray Davis in October, the PAC will work to defeat Mr. Bush in next year’s election, building lists of supporters through a petition drive and raising money to run ads against the Republican, Mr. Lux said.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]



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