- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Edwards ready
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is putting the finishing touches on a widely expected run for president, meeting with close friends today followed by a series of interviews and fund-raising events later this week, associates say.
The associates said the Democratic senator has been scheduling events they expect will lead to his announcement, but cautioned that as of yesterday afternoon he hadn't given them the final word on his plans, the Associated Press reports.
Mr. Edwards has been expected to announce his intentions by year's end, and those close to him did nothing yesterday to dampen speculation that he would run, the wire service said.
"The senator has said for a long time now that he would make up his mind by the end of the year or early next year," spokesman Mike Briggs said, adding, "We're about at that point."
Mr. Edwards, 49, is entertaining close friends and supporters at his home in Raleigh, N.C., today, and is scheduling a series of interviews tomorrow, said the associates, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
He plans to hold fund-raisers starting Saturday, first in Raleigh and then in cities around the country, they said.

New kind of judge
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has appointed to the state Supreme Court a judge who once wrote that the courts "must recognize they are the weakest branch of government."
Circuit Judge Kenneth Bell, 46, of Pensacola, replaces retiring Justice Leander Shaw, 72, who is stepping down next week after 20 years on the state's highest court. His appointment Monday was the second Mr. Bush has made to the Supreme Court.
Judge Bell believes in judicial restraint, which holds that the courts should impede on the powers of the legislative and executive branches only as a last resort.
Florida Republicans have accused the state Supreme Court of stepping on the role of the Legislature in broadly interpreting the law in effect, making new law as it did in scoffing at the statutory deadline for a recount in the 2000 presidential election.
Judge Bell said Monday his general judicial philosophy was more conservative.
"I don't believe in activism of the court, either from the left or the right," he said.
The Miami Herald reported that earlier this year Judge Bell had a Web site promoting his candidacy for the high court, on which he said: "Unless absolutely necessary, the courts must recognize their role as the 'weakest branch of government' and pay due deference to the legislative and executive branches."

A novel argument
"Sixty-seven percent of supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez say they favor new elections as the peaceful path out of their country's current political crisis, according to a poll published Friday in Venezuela's El Nacional," the Wall Street Journal says.
"Maybe they know something that some of the sandalistas in the U.S. Congress don't. Thirteen members including Barney Frank, John Conyers, Jose Serrano and Jan Schakowsky have written President Bush to complain that the U.S. is not sufficiently protecting Mr. Chavez's increasingly authoritarian rule. For a crowd that has long worried about Yankee imperialism in Latin America, this is certainly a novel argument," the newspaper says in an editorial.
"The letter writers are upset, it seems, because members of the opposition to Mr. Chavez met with Bush administration officials, a standard and sensible policy of all U.S. governments. They are incensed that those same U.S. officials agree with the two-thirds of Venezuelans who criticize Mr. Chavez's tactics. So while the Venezuelan president is trying to confiscate property, take over the labor unions and squash a free press, congressional Democrats believe that the biggest threat to life and liberty in Venezuela is America.
"Another affront to the letter writers' sensibilities is the statement by Mr. Bush's special envoy to Latin America, Otto Reich, that 'an election is not sufficient to call a country a democracy.' Being in the minority themselves in Congress, Democrats might well understand that merely getting elected with majority backing is not enough to run the other side into the ground."

Christopher's letter
Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in a letter to the New York Times yesterday that the White House should focus on North Korea and international terrorism, and put the war on Iraq on the "back burner."
"Unless the president has been provided intelligence about Iraq's capacities that he has not shared or even hinted at in his public statements, the threats from North Korea and from international terrorism are more imminent than those posed by Iraq," said Mr. Christopher, who served as President Clinton's top diplomat from 1993 to 1997.
Mr. Christopher, 77, said he believes the United States "cannot mount a war against Iraq and still maintain the necessary policy focus on North Korea and international terrorism."
Pyongyang's intention to reopen its nuclear plant puts it six months away from having enough weapons-grade material to make several nuclear bombs, he said.
"Contrast this with Iraq. Not only is North Korea much further along than Iraq in building nuclear weapons but, by virtue of its longer-range missiles, it has a greater delivery capability," Mr. Christopher said.
"I am convinced that this crisis requires sustained attention from top government officials, including the president," he said.
"And then there is the war on terrorism. Deadly terrorist attacks continue around the globe, wreaking havoc in far-flung places such as Indonesia, Kenya, Jordan and Yemen, where three American missionaries were killed by a gunman yesterday," Mr. Christopher said.
"A United States-led attack on Iraq will overshadow all other foreign-policy issues for at least a year," he said.

Romney's sacrifice
Incoming Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey say they will forgo their salaries for the next four years and use the money to pay top staff members more during the state's financial crisis.
Mr. Romney, a millionaire former venture capitalist, would have made $135,000 a year, while his lieutenant governor, who is also wealthy, would have earned $120,000. They will be sworn in tomorrow.
Mr. Romney, a Republican who campaigned on a pledge to bring a business mentality to state government, has said he has difficulty recruiting top advisers because of low public-sector wages.
He said he will use the forfeited salary to pay some members of his staff up to $150,000. The highest staff salary in the governor's office is currently $130,000.
Mr. Romney said the decision was "a symbolic move that we hope sets the appropriate tone and which demonstrates our strong commitment to public service."
The state's $23 billion budget faces a deficit as high as $500 million this fiscal year.
Mr. Romney also worked without pay when he was chief of the Salt Lake City Olympics. He donated his salary to charity.

The new Gore
"Presidential contender John F. Kerry will become the new Al Gore" in 2003, New York Post columnist John Podhoretz predicts.
"With the original Al Gore out of the race, American politics will need a yin to George W. Bush's yang a polar opposite for a polarized electorate. The junior senator from Massachusetts is wooden, humorless, self-aggrandizing and fancies himself an intellectual. Sound familiar?
"Kerry will put off reporters who follow him around. Friends will protest that in private he's incredibly charming. But nobody will believe those friends. He will be ripe for spoof and satire, and the parodies of him will quickly become better-known than Kerry himself," the columnist says.


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