- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2003

Who’s who?

With nine Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, it’s hard to know who’s who. Just ask South Carolina residents invited to a “Bob Graham for President” event late last week.

As Valerie Bauerlein observed in the State, a Columbia, S.C., newspaper, following the Florida’s senator’s campaign appearance, “some guests at Thursday’s event were scouring brochures for his picture so they would recognize him when he came in.”

Read all about it

The “Joe Lieberman for President” camp is hoping to attract viewers to the first of the Democrats’ televised debates early next month, although history suggests more people will be watching sports or sitcoms.

“Joe is gearing up for the first nationally televised presidential debate on Sept. 4. To help him get ready, we’re asking our supporters to send us questions you think might come up that night,” is the campaign’s gimmick.

Still, the question has been posed before in this column: If a potted tree falls over on the dais of a political debate, will anybody hear it? Chances are no, unless you’re among the debaters.

“If a Tree Falls in the Woods,” in fact, was the title of one study that examined TV coverage of the 2000 campaign debates.

“Until the 2000 campaign, when Fox decided not to cover the [presidential] debates live in favor of baseball and NBC failed to cover a debate in favor of entertainment programming, these debates had always been telecast live by all major networks in prime-time hours — between 8 and 11 p.m. local time,” the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate recalled.

Nevertheless, the committee argued that presidential debates, which date back to 1820 (the Lincoln-Douglass debates are considered a significant historic landmark, as are the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960) are the best single way for citizens to cut through the “demagogic advertising that has become the principle staple of campaigns and to make judgments, freed from the filters of journalistic commentary.”

For those who will be tuning in to the Weather Channel, you can get a fair and balanced recap of the debate in the newspaper you’re now reading.

Flipping the channel

The Federal Communications Commission recently lifted caps on television station ownership and allowed newspaper cross-ownership. Already groups are lining up on both sides of this issue in anticipation of a vote in the Senate following the August recess.

Organizations like the National Organization for Women, People for the American Way and Common Cause have advocated rolling back the decision and possibly bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, which some see as an effort to silence a “growing demand” for conservative news and views.

Those in favor of less regulation and who are defending conservative media include the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform, which recently began a new Web site supporting the FCC’s decision: www.stopmediaregulation.org.

Oops!

“We are convinced that the leadership of the United States will be able to gain the support of the Untied [sic] Nations and our allies in NATO for a genuine international effort to rebuild and stabilize Iraq.”

Letter to President Bush from Sens. Joseph R. Biden, Delaware Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican.

Surviving heroes

Nearly 59 years after the end of World War II, the National World War II Memorial — the first national memorial dedicated to all who served during World War II — will be dedicated in Washington over Memorial Day Weekend 2004.

This columnist paid a visit yesterday to the National Mall construction site — between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial — and was surprised to find much of the memorial already taking shape.

Meanwhile, Rep. Walter Jones, North Carolina Republican, has introduced legislation aimed at honoring American POWs from “the Greatest Generation.”

“Over two years ago, two of my constituents who were POWs during World War II in the Pacific Theater approached me about awards they felt they should have received,” he said. “The Japanese had imprisoned each of the men, one of whom was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. These men were beaten, tortured and starved — one weighed 70 pounds when he was liberated.”

Both men were awarded the Prisoner of War Medal, yet neither received the Purple Heart. Current law for POWs held prior to 1962 requires documentation from the camps or detailed statements from former POW commanding officers to be eligible for the medal, records that are hard to come by given World War II and Korean war vets are dying by the thousands every week.

The bill would recognize hardships borne by World War II and Korean war POWs by providing additional assistance to those who would have earned the award if they had today’s record keeping. It would also require the Pentagon to provide historical information from the period.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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