- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

Sharpton’s troubles

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a Democratic presidential contender, is being sued by a Manhattan travel agency. The firm says Mr. Sharpton owes it $193,131.97 after giving out “fraudulent credit-card information.”

Alpha International Travel Agency, based in New York, says Mr. Sharpton ran up the charges between May 1, 2001, and Aug. 3, 2002, mostly for “airline tickets and hotel services.”

Mr. Sharpton and his National Action Network have refused to pay up, the travel agency said. Instead, the firm was given bogus card information, the suit said.

An attorney for Mr. Sharpton said the travel agency is at fault, and he plans to lodge a criminal complaint, the New York Post reports.

The lawyer said the travel agency fraudulently tried to place the National Action Network’s charges on Mr. Sharpton’s personal card. A spokesman for the travel agency said that was nonsense.

Graham’s future

The Orlando Sentinel yesterday urged Sen. Bob Graham to quit the Democratic presidential race and run for re-election to the Senate next year.

“Sen. Bob Graham and his senior political advisers face a choice when they meet this weekend to discuss strategy for his presidential bid: Try to fix a foundering campaign, or bow to political reality by bowing out,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“The second option is best for the Miami Lakes Democrat and his Florida constituents. It’s time for him to quit the presidential race and declare his intention to run again for the Senate seat he has so ably filled for three terms.

“Mr. Graham has not closed the door on running for re-election. But the longer he continues his long-shot bid for president, the more he risks diminishing his effectiveness as a senator.”

As a presidential candidate, “Mr. Graham has moved away from the moderate, bipartisan approach he has successfully followed in Washington,” the newspaper said. “His shifts to the political left and partisanship during the campaign already have alienated political moderates in Florida.”

‘Chameleon’ candidate

“You know you’re a professional spots-changer when your own ex-husband — who not only came out of the closet after the divorce, but came out of the closet and questioned his Republican loyalties … calls you a ‘chameleon’ in that New York Times profile,” Matt Welch writes at the Web site of the libertarian journal Reason (www.reason.com) about California gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington.

“One of the harshest critics of her metamorphosis is [Michael] Huffington, who has endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger for governor,” New York Times reporter Sarah Kershaw wrote in that profile feature.

” ‘She’s a chameleon,’ said Mr. Huffington, who narrowly lost his Senate race to Dianne Feinstein in 1994 after the news that the Huffingtons had hired an illegal immigrant to care for their children even though Mr. Huffington supported a ballot proposition focused on illegal immigrants.

“Mr. Huffington briefly considered running in the recall. … But he said he decided not to run for the sake of his two daughters, who, he said, urged both parents not to run,” Miss Kershaw writes.

“After Ms. Huffington stated in interviews her opposition to Proposition 187, a ballot measure that bars immigrants from receiving state services and that Mr. Schwarzenegger supported, Mr. Huffington went out of his way, calling a reporter two times after an interview, to say she had encouraged him to support the measure in his campaign.”

Bush and California

President Bush’s approval rating in California has inched downward to a new post-September 11 low, according to a Field Poll released yesterday.

While 50 percent of the state’s voters approve of Mr. Bush’s performance as president, 45 percent disapprove and the rest are undecided. In July, 51 percent approved and 43 percent disapproved.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, support for Mr. Bush leaped upward, with 74 percent saying they approved and 16 percent disapproved of his performance. Just before the attacks, 41 percent approved, and 48 percent disapproved.

In December 2001, Mr. Bush’s approval rating climbed to a high of 76 percent, but his disapproval rating crept up to 19 percent.

Democrats have reversed their post-attacks approval, with 72 percent now believing he is doing a poor job, the Associated Press reports. Among independent voters, 48 percent now hold a negative view. Mr. Bush continues to enjoy an overwhelming 86 percent approval rating from Republicans.

A separate poll released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California found 53 percent of residents approve of Mr. Bush’s performance in office, while 42 percent disapprove.

Campus jobs program

Former Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, who accused President Bush of failing to warn Americans about the September 11 attacks, is headed for — surprise: the Ivy League.

The Georgia Democrat has been named a visiting professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., officials at the school told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She will serve as a guest lecturer for three years, beginning this fall.

“She is an internationally renowned advocate for voting rights and human rights. She has taken clear stands on a number of critical issues and been a strong voice in Congress,” said Porus Olpadwala, dean of Cornell’s School of Architecture, Art and Planning, who was chairman of the 13-member faculty committee that selected Miss McKinney for the part-time professorship.

One of the clear stands Miss McKinney took came when she told a Berkeley radio station that people should ask: “What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered? … What do they have to hide?”

Huckabee’s diet

When Mike Huckabee’s staff threw him a birthday party, the Arkansas governor, who turns 48 on Sunday, didn’t touch a piece of the cake.

“I didn’t even want it,” he said.

It’s a new attitude for Mr. Huckabee, who hopes his actions can set a slimming example for a state that ranks third in obesity — he’s dropped 50 pounds since starting a medically supervised diet in mid-June.

“Everything revolves around your will,” Mr. Huckabee said yesterday during his now-regular 5 a.m. walk around the grounds of the governor’s mansion.

With Jet, his black Labrador, trailing at his side, he usually covers two miles in about 25 minutes. Then he heads inside for a light breakfast, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Huckabee, who refused to divulge his current weight, said it took the May heart attack death of overweight former Gov. Frank White at age 69 to force him to take some serious action on his own health.

A diagnosis last year of adult-onset diabetes was followed by a heart test that Mr. Huckabee said didn’t show disease but “really shook me up.”

Over the top

“Another round of looniness from left-wing activist/actress Janeane Garofalo as the co-host in the left chair on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ this week,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org.

“On Monday, she held the Bush administration ‘responsible’ for the blackout. On Wednesday afternoon, she blamed the Bush team for the terrorist attack on the U.N. hotel [in Baghdad]: ‘It is the Bush/Cheney cartel’s fault for this.’

“Railing against the Bush administration’s efforts to pass and now argue in favor of the benefits of the Patriot Act, Garofalo raised Nazism. Playing off how George W. Bush is the 43rd president, she charged: ‘It is in fact a conspiracy of the 43rd Reich.’

“In between, she contended that the war in Iraq ‘was an attempt at a corporate takeover. This was about oil. It wasn’t about human rights. It’s not about human rights.’ And she spewed: ‘Team Bush is more radically corrupt than Richard Nixon ever tried to be.’ ”

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

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