- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Campaign in disarray

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s press secretary and deputy finance director quit yesterday, adding to the turmoil on Mr. Kerry’s political staff after the dismissal of his campaign manager.

Robert Gibbs, chief spokesman for the Massachusetts lawmaker, and Carl Chidlow quit to protest the firing of campaign manager Jim Jordan, let go by Mr. Kerry on Sunday night. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the campaign, two officials told the Associated Press.

Mr. Gibbs will be replaced by Stephanie Cutter, a former spokeswoman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and current press secretary for the Democratic National Convention, the officials said.

“We’re sorry to see them go. They served the senator well,” campaign spokeswoman Christine Anderson said.

Several campaign officials said that the firing of Mr. Jordan was viewed as unfair by many Kerry aides and that there remained a possibility that others would follow Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Chidlow out the door.

Kerry’s bumbling

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, appears to have badly mishandled his firing of presidential campaign manager Jim Jordan.

CNN political editor John Mercurio, writing early yesterday in the network’s daily political newsletter, the Morning Grind (www.cnn.com), said: “In a conference call Sunday night, Kerry enraged much of his staff by mispronouncing the name of a top aide at least once, and could be heard eating his dinner as he broke the news of Jordan’s firing, which he dismissed as a ‘one-day story,’ according to the Associated Press. Stung by his attitude, several aides said they were considering quitting the campaign.”

Fatal mistake?

“When I first heard Monday that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts had just fired his presidential campaign manager, Jim Jordan, I immediately thought back to a conversation I had a month ago at a reception on Capitol Hill,” political analyst Charlie Cook wrote yesterday at https://nationaljournal.com.

“Several people were discussing the race for the Democratic nomination, and I opined that the Kerry campaign’s organizational problems were vastly overblown. In fact, I believed — and still do — that they were virtually irrelevant to his slippage from the race’s front-runner position,” Mr. Cook said.

“Instead, I suggested that the problem for Kerry, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and others in the race was that they were in a race with another candidate — former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — whose campaign was on fire.”

“An older and much wiser journalist, a Washington bureau chief who was covering politics while I was still in Boy Scouts, turned to me and asked, ‘Where do you think Kerry and Dean would be if Kerry had voted against the war?’ Like a thunderbolt from the sky, I instantly knew he was right. If Kerry had voted against the Iraq war, it is very likely that he would still be the front-runner and Dean would probably be an asterisk rather than the front-runner.”

Clark on the flag

White House hopeful Wesley Clark yesterday broke with most of his Democratic rivals, saying he favors amending the Constitution to ban flag burning, the Associated Press reports.

In June, the Republican-controlled House approved a one-line change to the Constitution — “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” — for the fifth time in eight years. The Senate never has passed the proposed amendment.

Speaking at an American Legion hall on Veterans Day, Mr. Clark said he agrees with the amendment, although he cautioned that true patriotism involves more than respecting symbols.

“I’m in favor of the American flag amendment, but as I travel around the country, what I see is a new spirit of patriotism, and it goes a long way beyond the American flag,” he said.

Among Democratic presidential hopefuls in Congress, Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards have opposed the amendment. Reps. Richard A. Gephardt and Dennis J. Kucinich have supported it.

Jindal’s lead

New polling data shows Republican Bobby Jindal continuing to run ahead of his opponent in Louisiana’s gubernatorial election campaign, United Press International reports.

According to Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., Mr. Jindal leads Democrat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco 48 percent to 43 percent, a lead outside the survey’s 4 percent margin of error.

The research company said Mr. Jindal enjoys a substantial lead in most regions of the state, including central Louisiana, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Mrs. Blanco leads, 53 percent to 40 percent, in her home territory of Arcadia.

The poll, conducted Nov. 4 to 6 for Gannett News Service outlets, surveyed 625 likely voters in advance of Saturday’s runoff election.

Leftist sugar daddy

Left-wing billionaire George Soros, comparing the Bush administration to Nazis, says he is steering more than $15 million to groups hoping to oust the Republican president in 2004.

“If necessary, I would give more money,” Mr. Soros told The Washington Post.

So far, he has donated $10 million to the liberal activist group America Coming Together, and on Monday he announced that the left-wing group MoveOn.org will be the beneficiary of up to $5 million. He also has promised $3 million to the Center for American Progress, a new liberal think tank run by John Podesta, who was chief of staff to President Clinton.

“When I hear Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans,” said Mr. Soros, who grew up in Hungary but is now an American citizen.

He added: “My experience under Nazi and Soviet rule has sensitized me.”

In the past, Mr. Soros donated $18 million to groups advocating campaign-finance restrictions. Those groups won legislation that appears to have increased the influence of the super-wealthy, such as Mr. Soros.

NIH, Harvard probed

A congressional committee is investigating whether the National Institutes of Health played favorites in awarding a $40 million contract to Harvard University.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is focusing on the actions of Dr. Richard Klausner, former director of NIH’s National Cancer Institute, when he was a candidate to be Harvard’s president and had disqualified himself from taking part in issues involving the university, according to letters sent to Harvard and NIH.

The letters say that information turned up during an initial review by committee staff “raises questions about whether Harvard University received favorable treatment” and that Dr. Klausner appears to have been part of the process that led to the Harvard award, despite his recusal.

NIH spokesman John Burklow said yesterday that NIH plans its own internal review of the questions raised by the committee. He said that the committee’s letter had been received the day earlier and that NIH will continue to cooperate with the committee.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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