- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Quit bashing Dubya

Malaise has struck the Democratic Party in New Hampshire.

Yes, a Franklin Pierce College poll of 500 likely New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary voters found former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean nosing ahead of Sen. John Kerry in a primary race that is virtually deadlocked. But, surprising at this stage of campaigning in the crucial primary state, there is a “listless” pack of candidates lagging behind and a rising number of undecided voters.

In fact, according to the survey conducted by the college’s Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication, voter support of candidates is “very soft,” with only 31 percent definitely committing to their chosen candidate.

What gives?

“At this time, the Democratic candidates are mostly focusing their daily attention and criticism on the president and his performance,” opines Rich Killion, the Fitzwater Center’s director. “Though this may be impacting the president’s approval ratings, it is leaving little or no room to contrast themselves from the other candidates in this primary.”

So what’s a leading Democrat such as Mr. Kerry, Mr. Dean, Joe Lieberman or Richard A. Gephardt to do?

“With a growing pool of undecided voters, those seeking to break out and stand out from the pack will need to start drawing differences between themselves and the primary leaders,” he says.

Given the latest poll, here’s how the top Democrats stack up in New Hampshire popularity: Mr. Dean, 22 percent; Mr. Kerry, 21 percent; Mr. Gephardt, 6 percent; Mr. Lieberman, 6 percent; Sen. John Edwards, 2 percent; and Sen. Bob Graham, 1 percent.

Even two individuals who have not declared candidacy registered in the results — retired Gen. Wesley Clark polled 2 percent, and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. at 1 percent.

Spending limits

Just before Congress recessed for August, Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican and a member of the freshman-class group Washington Waste Watchers, introduced a resolution to term-limit members of the Committee on Appropriations.

“Since arriving in Washington, I have been struck by the casual attitude toward excessive federal spending,” explains Mr. Franks. “Term-limiting the appropriators is no reflection whatsoever on the leadership of those that are currently serving on the committee. This is simply a preventative measure that will allow fresh idealism into the appropriations process.”

His proposal would limit service on the appropriations panel to no more than three terms, or six years. Unless voters kick them out of the House first.

Healing spaces

“FEMA dollars at work,” or at least that’s how the Republican Study Committee is calling attention to funds granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to four Washington-area communities still obviously impacted by September 11.

Among the projects “to help the community heal during these difficult times” are Gardens and Healing Spaces, Building Trust During War Workshop, Peace Workshop, Anger Management and Multi-Cultural Dialogue.

“These cross-cultural dialogues are to encourage the community to participate in a greater discussion of who we are, where we are from, why we are here and how we are doing,” says the FEMA-supported Community Resilience Project.

Another project is the “yearlong celebration of trees, gardens, and other healing spaces. An event held every month focuses on the theme of the healing power of our connection to trees and nature.”

Dead bury dead

It’s common practice for newspaper obituaries of the famous to be written months if not years in advance of the subject actually dying.

“That makes good deadline sense, but it can lead to some macabre situations,” observes the Libertarian journal Reason, which points to the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, where the obit for Bob Hope carries the byline of the paper’s long-deceased film critic, Vincent Canby.

“Canby died three years ago,” the journal notes.

Get well soon

In our last column we told you about congressmen being required to provide a “personal explanation” of absences for mandatory roll-call votes.

Now we read in South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was forced to issue a speedy apology last week to freshman Republican Rep. Bill Janklow after issuing a news release admonishing the congressman for missing a vote on veterans’ benefits.

Mr. Janklow couldn’t vote because he was undergoing heart tests at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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