- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

Racial trifecta

“Kweisi Mfume must be very pleased with himself this week. The NAACP clearly has the Democratic presidential pack running scared,” Michelle Cottle writes in the New Republic Online (www.tnr.com).

“Not only did six of the contenders schlep to Miami [on July 14] to appear at a candidate forum at the group’s annual convention, the three who skipped the original event — Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich — were so scarred by the [denunciations] they subsequently received by Mfume and Co. that they slunk down to the convention on Thursday to offer a public apology and engage in some high-profile groveling.”

But the candidates were “wildly overshadowed by the whacked-out response” of the NAACP itself, Miss Cottle writes.

“Mfume, for one, just couldn’t resist breaking out the Civil War metaphors — insisting that the non-attendees’ political capital ‘is now the equivalent of Confederate dollars.’ Then there was Al Sharpton’s typically melodramatic display: brandishing an axe handle in an effort to equate the absent threesome with the recently deceased former Georgia governor Lester Maddox. … ‘There is still an axe-handle mentality among some in the Democratic Party,’ Sharpton insisted, in a made-for-media assault. … Wow. References to both the Civil War and Jim Crow in the span of one evening. If only someone could have worked in a mention of the Klan, the trifecta of racial hyperbole would have been complete.”

Miss Cottle adds that when NAACP leaders “choose to pull such hysterical stunts, screeching like unhinged lunatics for the absolute delight of the media, they only serve to convince the rest of the country that black America has lost all sense of perspective.”

Democrats’ ad

Democrats said yesterday they will launch a new television ad in Wisconsin accusing President Bush of misleading Americans on the threat from Iraq.

Republicans warned broadcasters not to air the ad, scheduled to start today, calling it “deliberately false and misleading.”

The Democratic National Committee has been raising money through an e-mail campaign that started July 10 to help pay for an ad that sharply questions President Bush’s veracity on Iraq’s weapons, the Associated Press reports.

The ad says: “In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush told us of an imminent threat. … America took him at his word.”

The video shows Mr. Bush saying, “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

The ad continues: “But now we find out it wasn’t true.

“A year earlier, that claim was proven false. The CIA knew it. The State Department knew it. The White House knew it. But he told us anyway.”

Republicans say the ad improperly quotes Mr. Bush because his entire statement was: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Democratic spokesman Tony Welch said: “With the British in there, the president’s information is still false and misleading. It is exactly what the president said.”

“You can say whatever you want in a fund-raiser,” Republican spokesman Jim Dyke said, “but it steps over the line when you knowingly mislead people in your advertising.”

A boring goal

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who sent shock waves around Europe by comparing a German lawmaker to a Nazi concentration-camp guard, says he will try to become boring from now on.

Asked on the eve of his arrival in Texas to meet President Bush whether he would consider a more cautious approach, Mr. Berlusconi told a Time magazine reporter: “I’m not a traditional politician and I have a sense of humor.

“I’ll try to soften it and become boring, maybe even very boring, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to.”

Mr. Berlusconi arrived yesterday afternoon at Mr. Bush’s Crawford ranch — a key personal endorsement from the U.S. president.

The Italian leader “has been a great friend and partner in the war on terrorism,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Mr. Berlusconi made the Nazi jibe in response to heckling from a German member during his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on the second day of Italy’s six-month stint as EU president. He later expressed regret.

German-Italian relations suffered another blow days later when a junior minister complained that Germans were “hypernationalistic blondes” who loudly invade Italy’s beaches.

The minister resigned, but only after German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder canceled a summer holiday in Italy.

Asked what he thought of German tourists, Mr. Berlusconi said in the Time interview: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

Unity rally

Embattled California Gov. Gray Davis tried to galvanize allies this weekend against an apparently inevitable recall election, casting the effort as a Republican power grab at a “unity rally” Saturday in San Francisco with other prominent California Democrats.

“They are trying to spend $60 million to have a special election to recall all the progress you and I have made in the last 4 years,” Mr. Davis told about 500 cheering supporters. “This is not about changing governors but about changing the direction — I’ll go forward; they’ll go backward.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was among the California Democrats offering support at the rally, which came days ahead of a key deadline that recall proponents hope will trigger an election this autumn.

Mrs. Pelosi belittled the recall as “part of a national Republican agenda to achieve through the recall what they can’t achieve in an election,” the Associated Press reports.

By Wednesday, counties must report how many valid signatures recall organizers have submitted — and indications are they could well have gathered the 897,158 they need.

Switch in New Mexico

Hoping for more political clout, New Mexico Democrats voted Saturday to replace the state’s June presidential primary election with a presidential preference caucus in February.

Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson sought the change, which was approved by the Democratic State Central Committee. “It’s to get New Mexico more visibility,” he said.

Major-party presidential nominees are usually clearly identified long before June, weakening the effect of the old springtime primaries. But Mr. Richardson got state election law rewritten this year to give parties the caucus option, the Associated Press reports.

The New Mexico plan must still be approved by the Democratic National Committee. Terri Holland, deputy director of the state Democratic Party, said no date is set for the national committee vote, but she expects a speedy response.

If the plan is approved, New Mexico will join Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri and Delaware with presidential-nominee selections Feb. 3.

Opponents of the caucus plan cite the limited number of voting hours and the cost: $200,000 to $250,000, to be paid by the party.

Kerry and Biden

“The likelihood that longtime Sen. Joe Biden might join the Democratic presidential primary race is starting to scare his fellow Washington-based candidates. The reason: He’s an expert on foreign and military affairs, key to running in the post-9/11 world,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Biden’s toying with a candidacy has irked Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. We hear that Kerry recently harangued Biden on the Senate floor about his plans, repeatedly asking, ‘Why are you doing this?’ At one point, Kerry even asked if Biden didn’t think Kerry was good enough to run.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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