- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) — Capital Comment — Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Separating the heat from the Chafee …

Indications late Thursday afternoon that Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., would assume the chairmanship of the Senate subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs set off a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill. According to at least one source familiar with events as they unfolded, Chafee offered to take the gavel after Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., passed it up. Both men have questioned Bush's policy toward Iraq and the resolution giving President George W. Bush the authority to use all necessary means to disarm Iraq, which Chafee voted against.

Some administration allies are reportedly quite concerned that either man could use the post as a platform to subtly or openly undermine the administration's Gulf War effort — even after the shooting starts, if ever.

Those who prefer that particular subcommittee be led by a Republican more favorably inclined toward the White House initiative on Iraq — like Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. — were still trying to cut a deal late Thursday but were not hopeful as to the outcome.


Cut and paste and print …

Some time ago a smart political operative realized that, if you gave draft letters to cause-oriented people and told them to send them into news organs as letters to the editor, enough of them would do it to make it worthwhile. The age of the Internet ratcheted it up a tick, allowing people to send a pre-written letter — or compose one of their own — via e-mail to various media outlets.

Unfortunately, what technology giveth it also taketh away, for, in the age of the Internet search engine, the tactic is all too easy to expose. Case in point, the Republican National Committee which, through its GOPTeamLeader.com Web site, is generating a number of letters to different newspapers, signed by different people — but using the same language. GOP team leaders across America have been sending letters that start, "When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership," and going on to praise his $674 billion proposed tax cut.

Theinquirer.net, a news Web site based in the United Kingdom, discovered that many U.S. newspapers have published the RNC-generated letters — including the Boston Globe, the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.


Just peachy, thanks …

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox has announced she will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that fellow Democrat Zell Miller is giving up at the end of his current term. Cox, who has an important name and a strong following among Democrats in Georgia, was thought by many to be the strongest candidate the party could put up in its quest to retain the seat. She would certainly have unified the field quickly enough. Her departure raises the prospect of a wide-open primary on the Democratic side that could lead to a bruising and bloody outcome.

On the GOP side, things appear to be only slightly clearer. U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, the most liberal Republican in the congressional delegation, is already in the race and at least two other members of the delegation — Mac Collins and Jack Kingston — are looking seriously at the race.

State GOP Chairman Ralph Reed will not, despite the urgings of some, make a run for the seat. One who might make the race is former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, who was defeated by GOP Rep. John Linder in the 2002 party primary. Barr has run for Senate before, coming up short against the late Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., in 1992. There are some who suggest, however, that Barr abandon any thought of going to the Senate in favor of an effort to regain a seat in the U.S. House — most likely the district which Isakson is giving up. When it was held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, it was the most Republican seat in the state.


Too high a price?

People in Washington are still buzzing about what one source called, "Kate Michelman's demand" at the National Abortion Rights Action League/Pro-Choice-America meeting the other day. The meeting included a cattle call of the six Democrats who, at present, represent the party's list of presidential candidates for 2004. People are saying that Michelman issued a call for the three senators who had come to the meeting — Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, John Edwards of North Carolina and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts — to filibuster any Bush judicial nominee who did not support a woman's right to choose.

According to our source, it seems clear the prospect of the political support of the abortion-rights movement, a powerful if not determinate force in the Democrat's presidential nominating coalition, goes to the brave knight who picks up her gauntlet.


Anchors aweigh!

The U.S. Navy's next three Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers will carry the names of three naval combat heroes: Fleet Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., Adm. Forrest Sherman and Adm. David Glasgow Farragut.

Halsey, nicknamed "Bull" both for his looks and his tenacity, wrote the book on carrier strategy in the Pacific during World War II, embodied in his slogan, "Hit hard, hit fast, hit often." Sherman, the youngest man to serve as chief of naval operations, was also a naval aviator, assuming command of the USS Wasp in May 1942 and earning the Navy Cross for his leadership during early phases of the occupation and defense of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Farragut gained famed for his exploits in the American Civil War and is best known for his order to "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead" during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.


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