- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

Taunting the president

Two Democratic presidential hopefuls stepped up their criticism of President Bush yesterday, saying the commander in chief’s “bring them on” comment regarding Iraqi forces amounted to taunting the enemy.

During a campaign appearance in Concord, N.H., Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, said Mr. Bush’s comments were hardly presidential, and he complained that the president had not leveled with the American people about how tough the war’s aftermath would be.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bush said American troops under fire in Iraq aren’t about to pull out, and he challenged those considering attacks on U.S. forces, saying, “Bring them on.”



“He’s president — you don’t taunt the enemy,” Mr. Gephardt told a group of about 35 at the state library. “You try to keep our troops safe, you try to help them in what they’re doing. … This phony, macho business is not getting us where we need to be.”

Administration officials said Mr. Bush’s tone was not meant to invite attacks on U.S. troops, but rather to express confidence in the strength of the U.S. military.

One of Mr. Gephardt’s rivals, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said Mr. Bush’s comment was “unwise, unworthy of the office and his role as commander in chief, and unhelpful to American soldiers under fire.”

“The deteriorating situation in Iraq requires less swagger and more thoughtfulness and statesmanship,” Mr. Kerry said.

Jackson and NASCAR

The black leadership network Project 21 is pressuring the Rev. Jesse Jackson to support a promising black race-car driver who lacks the financial sponsorship needed to advance in the sport.

Mr. Jackson has complained publicly that black drivers have been excluded from NASCAR. In 1999, according to the National Legal and Policy Center, Mr. Jackson told a conference attended by NASCAR’s chief executive officer, “The fact of the matter is there is frustration because of exclusion. We were qualified to play baseball before 1947. We are qualified to race cars now.”

Since then, Mr. Jackson’s organizations have received a reported $250,000 from NASCAR.

On June 24, a board member of Mr. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition renewed the attack on NASCAR, publicly charging that auto racing remains “the last bastion of white supremacy” in professional sports.

Project 21, in a prepared statement released yesterday, urged Mr. Jackson to take the money given to his operations by NASCAR and use it to directly support an up-and-coming black driver.

“As a devoted fan of NASCAR, I am troubled by Jesse Jackson’s latest exploits,” says Project 21 member Reginald Jones. “I never once have paused to consider the racial makeup of the drivers or other fans. Like white fans of the NBA, racial proportions are irrelevant to me.

“NASCAR is a juicy target because of its Southern heritage and vast financial resources. Fans should be outraged by NASCAR’s cowardice in the face of Jackson’s latest hustle. People like me who have supported the sport do not appreciate our money going to him.”

Myth-making

One of the big issues in Congress last year — and in the midterm elections — was whether President Bush should have the authority to waive union rules and have the right to hire and fire in what was to be the new Homeland Security Department.

Senate Democrats, in the majority at that time, insisted that no bill would pass unless Mr. Bush and the Republicans bowed to the Democrats’ union allies and relinquished the right to disregard the union contracts of personnel related to national security held by previous presidents.

But those facts were left out of a Washington Post story by Peter Carlson yesterday. The reporter, in a Style-section profile of former Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, suggested instead that Mr. Cleland lost the 2002 election because of “nasty politics” concerning his stance on the homeland security bill.

A TV ad by Republican candidate Saxby Chambliss “didn’t mention that Cleland supported a Democratic bill that wasn’t radically different” than the president’s, the reporter said without further explanation. The reporter also didn’t mention that President Bush had made it a major issue while campaigning for Republican Senate candidates.

The myth-making also showed up yesterday in a column by USA Today’s Walter Shapiro. “The 2002 elections demonstrated that even a wheelchair-bound war hero in Georgia could be assailed for a purported lack of patriotism,” the columnist said without elaboration.

Internet gatherings

Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean began an Internet turnout drive Wednesday, trying to build ties among his backers as well as persuade them to help him win Iowa’s leadoff caucuses in January.

Dean aides around the country are trying to persuade volunteers to write letters to uncommitted Iowa voters asking them to support the former Vermont governor’s bid for the Democratic nomination, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Dean joined more than 200 backers packed into a sweltering University of Iowa meeting room to also urge them to join his Iowa “Dean Corps,” where his supporters take part in community-service programs.

“It’s public service,” Mr. Dean said. “It’s how I got started in politics.”

The gatherings are arranged on the Internet, where Mr. Dean has built a network of 55,000 volunteers.

Art critic?

An art dispute has come back to haunt former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is the subject of a new portrait showing him posing with two balls of elephant dung.

The work by Shanghai-born artist Zhou Tiehai, which features a lofty image of Mr. Giuliani against a backdrop of the New York skyline and flanked by the elephant droppings, is included in a show that opened yesterday at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan.

The exhibition is called “The American Effect” and features different takes on the United States by a variety of foreign artists.

Mr. Zhou’s portrait of the man who became known as “America’s mayor” in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks refers to a public row Mr. Giuliani had with the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1999 when he was in office.

Mr. Giuliani had slammed an exhibit at the museum titled “Sensation” that featured a portrait of the Virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung and decorated with pornographic clippings, demanding that the publicly funded museum cancel the exhibit. He then embarked on what proved to be a futile attempt to have the museum ousted from the city-owned building it has occupied since the 19th century.

Asked to respond to Mr. Zhou’s portrait, Mr. Giuliani insisted yesterday that he was unqualified to comment.

“I really am not an art critic,” he told reporters after a meeting with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in Washington.

“If it was an opera, I would be able to comment on it, but works of art I am not an expert on,” Mr. Giuliani said. “And I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know what it is.”

Stepping down

Ken Connor announced yesterday he is resigning from his position as president of the Family Research Council, effective July 14. Mr. Connor has served as the council’s president for three years.

“This was not an easy decision, but one that for both professional and personal reasons, I believed I needed to make,” Mr. Connor said. “After the summer, I look forward to returning to the courtroom and practicing law.

“Family Research Council is on a solid financial footing and I leave knowing FRC’s team of employees is more committed than ever to promoting and defending the sanctity of life and the institution of marriage.”

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

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