- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

Schumer's memos

The New York state Conservative Party is asking Sen. Charles E. Schumer to release internal office memos and other information so the public can judge whether the New York Democrat has been influenced by far-left special-interest groups opposed to the judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada.

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats have demanded internal Justice Department memos written by Mr. Estrada before they will allow a vote on his nomination.

"I agree with you that it is time to open our government to the public in this case, to your fellow New Yorkers," Mr. Long wrote yesterday in a letter to Mr. Schumer, who has led the charge against Mr. Estrada.

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats say they must have internal legal memorandums Mr. Estrada wrote when he worked in the Solicitor General's Office. They say the documents will help them assess Mr. Estrada's jurisprudential views.

Mr. Long told Mr. Schumer that he and others wonder about "the extent to which your efforts to defeat President Bush's judicial nominees have been coordinated with liberal Washington-based special-interest groups."

Among other things, Mr. Long wants Mr. Schumer to release a list of meetings Mr. Schumer or his office have had with special-interest groups who oppose Mr. Estrada and other judicial nominees, copies of memos written by Schumer staff on the subject and a list of all campaign contributions Mr. Schumer received from these groups or their members.

Mr. Schumer's office did not immediately return calls on the subject yesterday.

Hollywood hero

Hollywood political activist Rob Reiner yesterday endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean for president.

Mr. Reiner, a director and actor perhaps best known for his role as "Meathead" in the TV sitcom "All in the Family," also said he will serve as co-chairman of Mr. Dean's California campaign and as a member of the Democratic candidate's national finance committee.

Mr. Reiner helped raise millions of dollars for 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore. After Mr. Gore decided to forgo a 2004 run, at least two leading Democratic candidates reportedly sought Mr. Reiner's assistance.

The Los Angeles Times yesterday linked Mr. Reiner's endorsement to Mr. Dean's anti-war stance, which differs from such Democratic presidential candidates as Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

Mr. Reiner marched in an anti-war rally Saturday in Hollywood, along with actor Martin Sheen, another Dean supporter.

"Dean's the only major Democratic candidate speaking out against going to war without the support of the United Nations," Mr. Reiner said. "My urgency to support him right now is to give him as big a forum as possible so that his views can be heard. It's a very dangerous time right now."

Graham's health

Sen. Bob Graham disclosed yesterday that his heart surgery three weeks ago was more extensive than planned, but he still has his sights set on the White House and will file the paperwork next week to establish a presidential exploratory committee.

"I am very forward-leaning about the campaign for president," the Florida Democrat said in a conference call with a handful of reporters, his first interview since the operation. "The only remaining question is the issue of getting medical clearance to do so."

Mr. Graham underwent heart surgery on Jan. 31 to replace the aortic valve, which controls blood flow from the heart's left ventricle into the aorta, with a heart valve from a cow. Mr. Graham told reporters that his doctors also decided to perform a "discretionary" double bypass and close a hole between the chambers of the heart.

"The effect of doing this preventative-maintenance work, I have every reason to believe, is going to lead me to be more energetic and give me the peace of mind that I will not have to repeat this surgery, hopefully, for the rest of my life and certainly not for the foreseeable future," the 66-year-old senator said.

Shocked legislators

"In the world of political theater, there's nothing more entertaining than the spectacle of Congress fretting about the details of something it just passed. So let's all enjoy the tales of woe from members now discovering the un-fine print in the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill," the Wall Street Journal says.

"So bewildering is this 'reform' that even the politicians aren't sure how to practice politics anymore. They've had to invite cadres of lawyers to explain what constitutes illegal campaign 'coordination' (known in the Constitution as the right to free assembly), what in the world 'soft' money now is and when it's banned, and whether or not their faces must appear in their own campaign ads," the newspaper said in an editorial.

" 'We sometimes leave our audiences in a state of complete shock,' lawyer Robert Bauer told the New York Times after he'd taken Democrats to 'McCain-Feingold school.' After a similar GOP tutorial, Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra said he discovered that he could no longer appear in a county Republican brochure because it is funded with 'soft' dollars.

"What really scares the members is that they might violate some obscure new provision without even realizing it. Some prosecutor-on-the-make will then decide it's a crime; the same newspapers that promoted the bill will make them look guilty; and faster than you can say Bob Torricelli their career has gone poof.

"Some of our readers might think this is precisely the regulatory risk that private business endures every day, thanks to Congress. But in a democracy, politics isn't supposed to be the province of lawyers and bureaucrats. If the members are lucky, the courts will save them from themselves and find McCain-Feingold unconstitutional. If not, maybe next time they'll read what they're voting for."

Name game

The Communist Party could soon be allowed to take part in Kansas electoral politics.

The state Senate on Wednesday passed and sent the House a bill lifting a 1941 ban on Communist Party electoral activity and a 102-year-old law that kept parties with hyphenated or three-word names off state ballots.

Approved on a 39-0 vote, the legislation arose from the Natural Law Party's effort to gain state recognition so it could list its nominees on Kansas ballots, the Associated Press reports.

The law banning three-word or hyphenated party names was inspired by the tough elections of 1900, when Republicans were challenged by Democrats and Populists running as candidates of the Peoples-Democratic Party.

Clinton or McGovern?

"Democrats might as well be Frenchmen when it comes to using military force against Saddam Hussein.

"The problem facing the Dems is that their anti-war party is way, way out of whack with the rest of Americans, and that's especially true of the liberal activists who pick presidential nominees in key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire …," Deborah Orin wrote in yesterday's New York Post.

"One theory, favored by Clintonista Paul Begala, is that having more and more wannabes on the left just splits the super-liberal vote and makes it more likely that Dems nominate a (more electable) centrist. Clinton redux, as it were.

"The alternate argument is that having so many anti-war voices at presidential debates will drag the Democratic Party all the way to the left. … In other words, McGovern redux."

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