Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is the Democrats’ strongest hope to defeat President Bush in 2004, providing Mr. Kerry can “break the bubble” of public support Mr. Bush enjoys on foreign-policy issues, said Jerry McEntee, chairman of the AFL-CIO’s political committee and president of one of its largest unions.
On foreign policy, Democrats need to be “very aggressive and forceful. I think they have to take him on,” Mr. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told Associated Press reporters and editors yesterday.
Democrats still seem to be reluctant to challenge Mr. Bush on Iraq, North Korea and other foreign-policy issues. But Mr. Kerry has been “quite aggressive” since forming his presidential exploratory committee, Mr. McEntee said.
“If they don’t break the bubble that surrounds President Bush” on foreign policy, “I think they have real trouble. I think they have real difficulty,” he said of Democrats. “Kerry would have the best chance to do it.”
Mr. McEntee said Mr. Kerry’s status as a Vietnam War hero also makes him the best Democrat to counter an expected effort by Mr. Bush to make foreign policy and the war on terrorism central to the 2004 campaign.
The AFL-CIO is unlikely to make an endorsement until the Democratic Party formally nominates its candidate, Mr. McEntee said.
When Jerry Thacker was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS, The Washington Post responded with a front-page headline: “AIDS Panel Choice Wrote of a ‘Gay Plague.’” Soon, a firestorm of criticism including from many Republicans forced Mr. Thacker’s resignation.
But now comes the rest of the story.
Robert H. Knight of Concerned Women for America’s (CWFA) Culture and Family Institute points out that the offending phrase was commonplace in the 1980s, and shows how The Post took Mr. Thacker’s use of it out of context.
On the Web site of his ministry which encourages Christian compassion toward HIV/AIDS sufferers Mr. Thacker wrote:
“Before 1986, Jerry Thacker was probably a lot like you. He had a beautiful family, a good church and a rewarding ministry. He knew vaguely about the ‘gay plague’ known as AIDS, but it seemed a distant threat.”
Mr. Knight, in a new CWFA special report titled “Anatomy of a Smear,” said: “During the early 1980s, homosexual activists, academics, journalists and medical authorities routinely used the term ‘gay plague’ to refer to the cancers and pneumonia cases that were surfacing disproportionately among homosexual men.”
Among the users of the phrase “gay plague” cited by Mr. Knight are: Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Toronto Globe and Mail, award-winning San Francisco journalist Randy Shilts and an official history of the AIDS epidemic published by the University of California at Berkeley.
And … Newsweek magazine, owned by the Washington Post Co., which featured an article by Daniel McGinn titled “Anatomy of a Plague: An Oral History.” That article begins: “In the earliest days, it was known as the ‘gay plague’ a mysterious ailment affecting gay men, mostly in New York and San Francisco.”
Mr. Knight concludes: “Jerry Thacker, a decent man … fell victim to the liberal Washington smear machine, which ignored the context and the truth of his remarks.”
Foley and Graham
Republican Rep. Mark Foley says he will run for Sen. Bob Graham’s seat if Florida’s senior senator decides to run for president, and may run even if Mr. Graham seeks a fourth Senate term.
“It’s been a process of elimination trying to decide: Am I prepared to challenge a very popular senator for the United States Senate seat?” said Mr. Foley, who has been crisscrossing the state to test the political winds.
Mr. Graham, 66, is recuperating from heart surgery. Surgeons replaced a faulty heart valve last week, days before Mr. Graham had hoped to announce his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Georgia’s Democratic attorney general bucked Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue on a redistricting fight yesterday, refusing to drop an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeal, filed under former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, asks the high court to approve a state Senate redistricting map that is tilted even more toward Democrats than the one used in last year’s election. A hearing is scheduled in April, the Associated Press reported.
Like other Southern states, Georgia is required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to submit its district maps for federal approval.
Mr. Perdue’s victory over Mr. Barnes in November broke Democrats’ 130-year hold on the governor’s mansion. Redistricting was an issue in the governor’s race, with many voters blaming Mr. Barnes for new districts that Georgia Republican Party Chairman Ralph Reed denounced as “racial gerrymandering.”
Mr. Perdue and other Republicans last month called on Attorney General Thurbert Baker to drop the appeal, but Mr. Baker yesterday refused, saying: “I must do what I believe is in the best legal interests of the people of the state of Georgia.”
Mr. Perdue said he plans to hire former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell “to protect the interests of the governor’s office.”
Coble backs FDR
A congressman who heads a homeland security subcommittee said on a radio call-in program that he agreed with President Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Rep. Howard Coble, North Carolina Republican, made the remark Tuesday on WKZL-FM in High Point, N.C., when a caller suggested Arabs in the United States should be confined, the Associated Press reports.
Mr. Coble, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, said he did not agree with the caller but did agree with Mr. Roosevelt, who established the internment camps.
“We were at war. [Japanese-Americans] were an endangered species,” Mr. Coble said. “For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn’t safe for them to be on the street.”
Like most Arab-Americans today, Mr. Coble said, most Japanese-Americans during World War II were not America’s enemies.
Still, Mr. Coble said, Mr. Roosevelt had to consider the nation’s security.
Lucas to run again
“Rep. Ken Lucas, Kentucky Democrat, who had been mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2003 or for U.S. Senate against Republican Jim Bunning in 2004, has renounced his pledge to serve no more than three terms in Congress after hearing President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address,” United Press International reports in its Capitol Comment column.
“‘I have reflected on his words and his call for bipartisan cooperation on the great challenges that face us,’ Lucas said. ‘I believe that I can play a unique role in working with my conservative Democratic colleagues to responsibly and effectively support our president. Therefore, I am now compelled to seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004.’”
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and a presidential candidate, is often described as a “Boston Brahmin” and assumed to be Irish. But a genealogist hired by the Boston Globe found out that Mr. Kerry’s paternal grandfather was a European-born Jew who changed his name from Fritz Kohn to Frederick Kerry when he arrived in America in 1905.
Mr. Kerry’s paternal grandmother was also Jewish. She and her husband converted to Catholicism, the religion in which the senator was raised.
The Globe said Mr. Kerry was surprised by the findings especially details of his grandfather’s suicide at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston in 1921, in which he shot himself in the head in a restroom.