- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

Oo-la-la

One lawmaker got to strut his stuff over the French and their ideas about postwar Iraq yesterday.

“What France wants to do is to have the Iraqis take complete charge over there in 30 days. How would you, today, deal with France on that issue?” Fox News host Brit Hume asked Rep. Richard A. Gephardt.

The Missouri Democrat and presidential hopeful got mighty gutsy.



“I would negotiate tough with France. Look, the French are the French. They’re our friends, but they’ve always been independent and somewhat difficult to deal with,” Mr. Gephardt said. “We understand that. But they’re our friends. So we’ve got to get their help.”

“And if we don’t?” Mr. Hume asked.

“I would negotiate tough with them. Look, their idea of turning this over to the Iraqis immediately just is not a good idea, and we’re not going to do that,” Mr. Gephardt said.

Could such bristling be calculated? Time magazine’s Joe Klein thinks so, noting in today’s edition that “Gephardt appears to be working his way through a thesaurus of anger,” and becoming “the tortoise” who has begun to stir.

Recently, he used “a most un-Gephardtian quality to drive his point home: a flushed, sputtering anger,” Mr. Klein writes. “Gephardt’s anger is an utterly transparent industrial age process, like a steam locomotive creaking out of a station.”

Why, Bill, why?

Former President Bill Clinton is bustling around the country on behalf of one candidate or another, and handicapping the race to unseat President Bush next year. But why does he keep praising his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and retired Gen. Wesley Clark?

Neither is running for president, the Albany Times Union pointed out yesterday.

“What Mr. Clinton has done by oohing and aahing over two Democrats who aren’t running is a slight to those who are. It has become too easy for him, and others, to collectively dismiss the current field of contenders. The truth is that with the election still 14 months away, the Democratic field is taking shape. Mr. Clinton might pay a bit more attention to these candidates.”

The Times-Union continued, “What would Mr. Clinton have said if this sort of star-based handicapping were applied to him when he ran? What if, in September of 1991, it was decreed that the party’s only star was, say, Mr. Cuomo, and that Mr. Clinton and all the other Democrats actually running for president were a doomed lot?

“The man from Hope ought to know better. He wants to beat Mr. Bush and win back the White House, doesn’t he?”

Bill, Part 2

Mr. Clinton was also busy yesterday shoring up the reputation of California Gov. Gray Davis as he faces the Oct. 7 recall election. Mr. Clinton spoke on his behalf during a church service yesterday in Los Angeles, with the accompaniment of organ music.

Bill Simon isn’t buying any of it.

“This is all window dressing,” Mr. Simon, who ran against Mr. Gray in the California gubernatorial race last year, told CNN yesterday.

“People in California are going to see through these transparent maneuvers. They are just fed up with Gray Davis,” he said, adding that Californians are tired of slogans and crave solutions.

“Is there going to be enough water? Will the power be running? That’s what they want to know about,” Mr. Simon said.

Otherwise occupied

Vice President Dick Cheney has better things to do than chart the comings and goings of the nine Democratic candidates for president.

“What do you think of the Democratic field?” NBC host Tim Russert asked Mr. Cheney on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

“Haven’t really, frankly, paid … a lot of attention to it, Tim. I’m awful busy with my normal day job,” Mr. Cheney replied.

The last roundup

Texas Democrats who fled the Lone Star State to thwart Republican-led redistricting efforts are reluctantly preparing to fight another round today.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry called a third special session on redistricting last week after one of 11 boycotting Democratic senators broke ranks with his colleagues and returned to Texas. The Republicans needed just one more senator present in the chamber to have enough members for a vote.

“I don’t think I’ve looked forward to a Monday so much in a long time,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, told the Associated Press.

Democratic senators said they would wait and see if their defecting colleague, Sen. John Whitmire, showed up for the special session before they returned to the Capitol.

“We assume that he will, but there are some who believe that he won’t. I believe that he will,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirinin, a Democrat.

At issue is Texas’ congressional districts. Democrats currently have a 17-15 majority in the congressional delegation. The redistricting plan could give Republicans as many as 21 seats.

In the lobby

HBO’s new reality series “K Street” debuted last night, featuring actors and a few real Washington power brokers, including James Carville, Michael Deaver and Mary Matalin, who play themselves.

Presidential hopeful Howard Dean used a line in last week’s Democratic debate that he used earlier in an appearance on the HBO show.

“If a percentage of minorities that’s in your state has anything to do with how you connect with African-American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King,” he said in both cases, according to the New York Times on Saturday.

Meanwhile, HBO is already doing its own online political polling. Its inaugural poll found these topics to be the most “important to voters” after the Democratic debates:

President Bush’s request for $87 billion to fund U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, cited by 47 percent of the respondents; repealing or revising the Patriot Act, cited by 23 percent; a renewable energy policy, 13 percent; the Middle East peace process, 9 percent; civil rights and racial tolerance, based on Mr. Dean’s claim that “candidates have avoided this topic,” 8 percent.

Remembering O’Bannon

President Bush called the late Indiana Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon “a dedicated public servant and a good and decent man” yesterday. But Mr. O’Bannon, who died Saturday after suffering a stroke, also was lauded by newly sworn-in Gov. Joe Kernan, who declared yesterday a statewide day of remembrance for Mr. O’Bannon.

Mr. Kernan asked that the day be one “of reflection, sorrow and joy for a life that was lived to the fullest in the service of the people of Indiana.”

The state Supreme Court formally transferred power to Mr. Kernan on Wednesday, two days after Mr. O’Bannon, 73, was found unconscious in a Chicago hotel room. He died Saturday morning; Mr. Kernan was sworn in as governor about six hours later.

Mr. Kernan, 57, now must choose a lieutenant governor.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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