- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

AARP vs. Bush

AARP, the big lobby for older U.S. residents, plans to spend $5 million on a two-week ad campaign against a White House plan to privatize Social Security.

“This is our signature issue,” said Christine M. Donohoo, chief communications officer for AARP, which has 36 million members 50 and older. “We will do what it takes.”

The full-page newspaper ads will begin appearing next week in 50 papers around the nation, warning that private Social Security accounts would be nothing but “Social Insecurity,” the New York Times reported yesterday.

“There are places in your retirement planning for risk,” the advertisements say, “but Social Security isn’t one of them.”

AARP strongly supports new incentives for people to save for retirement, but says such savings should supplement the existing system.

Doubts about recount

A majority of voters in Washington state doubt that the final recount in the governor’s race was accurate, according to a poll.

Democrat Christine Gregoire topped Republican Dino Rossi in the hand recount after trailing in the first recount, done by machine, and in the count on election night.

The survey by Strategic Vision, LLC, a Republican polling firm, found that 54 percent of voters do not believe the recount that certified Mrs. Gregoire as the victor reflects the actual election results.

Thirty-seven percent believed the final recount was accurate, with 9 percent undecided.

Forty-three percent thought Mr. Rossi actually won the election; 41 percent said that Mrs. Gregoire actually won the election; and 16 percent were undecided.

Only 41 percent of those polled believes that the King County results are legitimate; with 53 percent believing that they are not legitimate; and 6 percent undecided. When asked if there should be a revote, 45 percent said yes, 43 percent said no, and 12 percent was undecided.

The poll of 800 registered voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday. The margin of error was 3 percent.

Media mantra

“Google the words ‘sluggish U.S. economy’ and ‘2004,’ and in 0.40 seconds you get 4,540 results. ‘Weak employment report points to still-sluggish U.S. economy,’ reads a recent headline, on the news that ‘just 112,000’ jobs were added in November,” the Wall Street Journal observes.

“Well, we live in a world economy, so when headline writers use the word sluggish, we have to ask: Sluggish compared with whom? According to the November forecast of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, gross domestic product in the U.S. is expected to increase by 4.4 percent in 2004. Elsewhere, the OECD predicts growth of 4 percent for Japan, 2.7 percent for the U.K., 2.1 percent for France and 1.2 percent for Germany. For the 12-country Euro zone, the figure is 1.8 percent,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

The newspaper also disputed the idea that America’s current economic performance is sluggish compared with its past performance or that the economy has been sluggish in terms of job gains.

The Journal said “it becomes tedious to hear the ‘sluggish’ mantra mindlessly repeated in the media, when the most cursory comparative analysis shows the U.S. economy performing robustly by international and historical standards. That’s especially so when the same folks who carp about a supposedly sluggish U.S. economy advise us to adopt European-style labor regulations, tax rates and environmental standards, and to expand the government’s reach into health care. At least in Europe there’s a broad recognition that consistently low growth is the price to be paid for lavish social benefits.”

Renaissance Weekend

“Not everyone is ringing in the New Year by partying with celebrities, basking on the beaches of St. Barts or sliding down the slopes to sauna in Aspen — some have opted for a cerebral workout at the 24th Annual Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, S.C.,” the New York Post reports.

“Among those who traded skiing, snorkeling and suntanning to participate in heady panel discussions that include ‘The War Against Terrorism,’ ‘Values and Political Campaigns,’ ‘Offshore Outsourcing’ and ‘The Dawn of Bio-Information’ are Sens. Hillary Clinton, Bill Nelson and Fritz Hollings; astronaut James Lovell, Reps. Jim Kolbe, David Price and Rush Holt; CBS News correspondent Rita Braver, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble of Northern Ireland, funnyman Art Buchwald, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, travel guru Arthur Frommer, Enron whistle-blower Sherron Watkins and Rabbi Harold Kushner.”

U.N.’s favorite paper

The New York Times agrees with that United Nations official who suggested the United States was stingy in the aid planned for tsunami-devastated nations. The official later backed down, but it’s unlikely the liberal newspaper will do so.

In fact, the newspaper, in an editorial, said the United States has not only been stingy in its response to the Asian tsunami disaster, but in giving aid in general.

The editorial said the $15 million initially offered by Washington was less than the figure the Republican Party plans to spend on President Bush’s inauguration in January.

Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell reacted indignantly to a comment by U.N. chief disaster relief coordinator Jan Egeland that rich nations have been “stingy” in giving aid to poorer nations.

“We beg to differ,” said the New York Times. “Mr. Egeland was right on target.”

“We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world’s poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world’s richest nation, would contribute $15 million.

“That’s less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.”

The administration has since increased its aid to $35 million and is also sending transport planes and Navy ships with troops that could take part in the disaster operation. But the Times said the $35 million remains “a miserly drop in the bucket.”

Cheap points

“Not everyone distinguished himself” in the aftermath of the tsunamis in Asia, Peggy Noonan writes at OpinionJournal.com.

“What to say of those who’ve latched on to the tragedy to promote their political agendas, from the U.N. official who raced to call the U.S. ‘stingy,’ to the global-warming crowd, to administration critics who jumped at the chance to call the president insensitive because he was vacationing in Texas and didn’t voice his sympathy quickly enough? Such people are slyly asserting their own, higher sensitivity and getting credit for it, which is odd because what they’re actually doing is using dead people to make cheap points,” Mrs. Noonan said.

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

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