- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

Call him ‘Ike’

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark says it would have been “easy” for him to run for president as a Republican because he would remind the Republican Party of Dwight David Eisenhower.

In what The Washington Post described yesterday as a recent interview, Mr. Clark said his military background was a mixed blessing in the Democratic race.

“If I were a Republican, it would be real easy,” Mr. Clark said. “Republicans would say, ‘Ah, general, we had Eisenhower, we like generals. Big authority.’ Democrats aren’t like that.”

He said Democrats “want to look through that uniform.”

“And they have trouble with that uniform because a lot of them marched [against the Vietnam War], and a lot of them, they’re not authority-oriented and the military seems like rigid authority.”

Money to Waxman

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat and a relentless critic of Halliburton Corp. for its Iraq contracts and ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, has accepted a $1,000 campaign gift from the donation arm of the company, Reuters news agency reports.

The political action committee of energy-services giant Halliburton gave the money last month, and the California congressman will keep it, his spokeswoman, Karen Lightfoot, said yesterday, without elaborating on the decision.

Larry Noble, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, said the donation was “a little bit surprising,” but might reflect the company’s pragmatic approach to politics.

“I don’t think they are hoping to change his position, but I think they probably want to keep the door open for future discussions,” Mr. Noble said.

Fannie Mae PAC

Fannie Mae, the biggest buyer of U.S. mortgages, filed papers to form a political action committee, letting the company boost its donations to members of Congress as they consider legislation to increase government oversight over the company, Bloomberg news service reports.

Legislation to shift oversight of Fannie Mae and fellow government-chartered mortgage-buyer Freddie Mac to the Treasury Department from the Department of Housing and Urban Development stalled earlier this year. The company opposed parts of the measure.

“The Fannie Mae PAC enables the company to support candidates who support our mission” of making it more affordable to own or rent a home, Fannie Mae spokesman Chuck Greener said.

Fannie Mae’s PAC might become one of the biggest in Washington. The company’s executives made 1,020 separate contributions to House and Senate candidates for the 2002 elections, giving a combined $966,828, according to disclosure forms. Wal-Mart Stores, the biggest corporate PAC, has given $1 million to candidates so far this year, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

The company filed papers for the PAC this month with the Federal Election Commission in Washington, who made the documents public yesterday.

Duane Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president for government relations and listed on the papers as the PAC’s treasurer, is a former chief of staff for Rep. Richard H. Baker, Louisiana Republican, who sponsored this year’s legislation to shift Fannie Mae’s government oversight.

Cementing control

“Gerrymandering is one of the most important factors influencing elections today. And now it appears that the practice of drawing the often bizarrely shaped districts is about to cement Republican control of the House for at least the rest of this decade,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“But amazingly this is drawing little public attention. Even NBC’s Tim Russert, the ultimate political junkie, spent 30 minutes interviewing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas on Sunday’s ‘Meet the Press’ without asking about Texas’ new and controversial redistricting plan.

“Last Friday, the Justice Department certified that the plan was in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, which ensures that new district lines don’t disadvantage minority voters, and a federal court rejected a Democratic challenge to its constitutionality. If the plan overcomes a couple of final legal hurdles, Republicans will likely have little worry of losing the House and Mr. DeLay may well have the support he needs to become speaker one day,” Mr. Fund said.

Party animal

“When President Bush warned David Gregory of NBC at a news conference last week not to pocket the White House silverware at an upcoming party, he was a little more than halfway through an Iditarod of holiday receptions at the Executive Mansion,” New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller writes.

“Leaving aside what Mr. Bush’s wisecrack says about his attitude toward the news media, it does highlight some of the most arduous socializing the president does all year,” the reporter said.

From Dec. 3 through the Hanukkah reception that Mr. Bush and the first lady were scheduled to give at the White House last night, “the president will have presided over no fewer than 20 holiday receptions and dinners, sometimes two in an evening. They have been given for a total of 7,000 guests: members of Congress, the Cabinet, White House staff, the Secret Service and the news media, as well as big political donors, family and friends. Some nights, Mr. Bush shook more than 1,000 hands.”

Dean up in S.C.

A new poll shows former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean expanding his lead among Democrats in South Carolina, an important early primary state.

Mr. Dean leads in ballot preference with 16 percent, followed by retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and the Rev. Al Sharpton at 12 percent, according to the American Research Group poll.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is in fourth place at 11 percent with the five other major candidates in single digits, United Press International reports.

Of the 600 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed, 29 percent remain undecided.

The American Research Group, which conducted the survey, says Mr. Dean has gained 7 points in the ballot preference since its November survey. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.

Seeking tranquility

Rep. Karen McCarthy, Missouri Democrat, will retire after 10 years in Congress, the Kansas City Star reports.

Miss McCarthy, 56, told the newspaper she seeks tranquility.

“I want to focus on balance in my life,” she said. “Too often, I’ve put my career and helping others ahead of my own needs. I made sacrifices willingly; it was what I did best.”

Miss McCarthy’s troubles began last March with what the Associated Press described as a drunken fall on a Capitol Hill escalator. It ended amid charges that she misused her staff and her campaign for personal gain, such as several trips to the Grammy Awards.

Her exit foretells a lively primary race in Kansas City, Mo., an area likely to remain in Democratic hands. Local leaders are entreating former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver to run. Among those already running, newcomer Jamie Metzl has raised more than $310,000. Another Democrat, Damian Thorman, also is running, as are two Republicans, Steve Dennis and Jeff Brauner.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3295 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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