- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

A tepid affair

Voters are not particularly enchanted with any of the 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls yet. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean leads a favorability poll of New Hampshire voters released by American Research Group yesterday, with 31 percent saying they would vote for him.

But 27 percent of the respondents said they were “undecided.”

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts ranked third with 21 percent, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri was fourth with 8 percent, followed by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (5 percent), and retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and Bob Graham of Florida (each with 2 percent.)

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois garnered 1 percent each and the Rev. Al Sharpton got zero percent.

The survey — which polled 422 Democrats and 178 undecided voters — was conducted Sept. 14 to 17.

Fun with Dick & Howard

The Democratic hopefuls, meanwhile, are squabbling among themselves.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, has been circulating to the press a 1999 letter from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean to President Clinton. The communique offered hints to Mr. Clinton on how to usher the admission of China to the World Trade Organization through Congress.

The Gephardt campaign contends that the letter shows that Mr. Dean “flip-flopped on [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and free trade” before declaring his candidacy for president.

“It’s fair for Dick to pass around this letter. But it’s not honest for him to claim, to pretend, that I was against Medicare and Social Security,” Mr. Dean complained to the Manchester Union-Leader yesterday.

“I am disappointed that when confronted with a legitimate policy debate, Governor Dean has chosen to say that I’m not honest. This campaign should be about substance and not personal attacks,” Mr. Gephardt said yesterday.

Nancy moment

Former first lady Nancy Reagan appears on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, introducing a book comprising a thousand personal letters written by former President Ronald Reagan.

“I think it was important for people to get to know Ronnie, understand Ronnie, and what better way than to read the letters that, that he’s written in his own hand, nobody else, and you do get an understanding of him, I think,” Mrs. Reagan says during the interview. The Washington Times was given an advance script.

The book, “Reagan: A Life in Letters,” goes on sale Monday.

How did Mr. Stephanopoulos land the interview? He had the inside track: His mother-in-law, Muffie Brandon Cabot, was once White House social secretary to Mrs. Reagan, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Viewers will see the Nancy they love — charming, eloquent, incredibly gracious, and obviously in love with her husband,” he told the Inquirer yesterday.

Miller time

Fox News commentator Dennis Miller has a few zingers aimed at the Democratic presidential candidates in the October/November issue of American Enterprise.

“I haven’t seen a starting nine like this since the ‘62 Mets. They lost 120 games,” Mr. Miller said in an interview that went to print before the Democratic field swelled to 10.

If former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean gets the Democratic nomination, “as they say in the world of tennis, that’s a walkover,” Mr. Miller said.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri “seems like a decent man,” Mr. Miller observed, “but he suffers from a Dukakis-ian lack of charisma. Most politicians are transparent. He’s translucent.”

Naughty, naughty

Renegade Democrats got a warning, not a spanking, down in the Lone Star State.

The Texas Senate has dropped hefty fines and restored the privileges of office to Democrats punished for leaving the state to protest a Republican-led redistricting plan.

The fortunate Democrats instead will be placed on probation until January 2005, warned that if they ever disappear again from session for more than 72 hours without a decent excuse, fines and sanctions would be reinstated.

After the lawmakers boycotted the Senate during a second special session on redistricting earlier this year, each was fined $57,000.

The green boutique

Some former Clinton-ites and a flock of environmental lobbyists have banded together to reclaim the White House next year, the Denver Post reported yesterday.

The new group, called Environment 2004, aspires to identify a niche of environmental voters, and “harness outrage about Bush’s stances on issues like logging, global warming and drilling in Alaska and the Rocky Mountains,” among other things.

Frank Loy, a former Clinton administration State Department official who organized the group, is convinced that their efforts will “sway millions” in several states.

Former Clinton administration Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner are on the board of directors.

“It’s a group that has an easy case to make. Any group that can get out there and expose Republican environmental policy for what it is would be a positive thing,” said Eric Schmeltzer, spokesman for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

“The world needs another partisan special interest group distorting the president’s accomplishment about as badly as network TV needs another reality show,” countered Mark Pfeifle, spokesman for the Interior Department.

Clark sharks

Aw, gee. They’re already picking on the new kid on the block.

Only two days into his campaign, retired Gen. Wesley Clark is catching flak from rivals for intending to give a paid speech next Thursday, rather than joining the nine other candidates in a debate in New York City.

“Surely the general can change his schedule to discuss this issue with the American people,” Jano Cabrera, spokesman for Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, told Associated Press yesterday.

Jim Jordan, campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said: “I think all Democrats will be disappointed if General Clark passes on an opportunity on national television to lay out his policies for making the American economy stronger and fairer.”

Later yesterday, Mr. Clark’s campaign said he would participate in the debate.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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