- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Over to you, Tom

The tables have turned on bankruptcy reform legislation that Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, derailed last year by attaching language that singled out abortion protesters, United Press International’s Peter Roff writes.

Mr. Schumer was so intent on preventing abortion protesters from filing for bankruptcy in the wake of court fines that he was willing to let the bankruptcy legislation die. But, on the bright side for Mr. Schumer, it did put Republican legislators in the uncomfortable position of disappointing business groups anxious for reform or pro-life activists who felt they would be discriminated against.

“Ultimately, Congress failed to act on the package. Now, the tables have turned,” Mr. Roff wrote.

“Without the reform package, several important bankruptcy protections — including one that applies to family farmers — expired on Dec. 31, 2003. To fix the problem, the Senate sent a bill to the House restoring and extending the family farm protections — which the House leadership attached the ‘clean’ bankruptcy reform package, without the Schumer language, and sent back to the Senate.

“Now Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, is the one who is in a tough spot. If he consents to having the bill — with its protection for South Dakota’s family farmers included — moved forward, then he runs the risk of antagonizing Schumer and the other pro-abortion-rights members of the Democratic caucus as well as the outside interest groups that are an important part of his party’s electoral coalition.

“If he blocks the bill, he will antagonize the corporate community and, more importantly, will be seen in his home state as allowing national politics to trump an issue of great importance to South Dakota’s family farmers — in a year in which he is running for re-election.”

The real scandal

“A man from the U.S. Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms Office called this week, asking us to give up the name of one of our sources,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“A formal probe is under way to discover how last November we got our hands on Democratic strategy memos on how to defeat President Bush’s judicial nominees. We politely told the gentleman to take a hike,” the newspaper said.

“But we have a question of our own: Why are Senate Republican leaders, specifically Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch and Majority Leader Bill Frist, cooperating with this vindictive little inquisition against their own employees? The scandal is what is in the memos, not how they were leaked. Yet you’d never know that from the way Senators Hatch and Frist have been rolling over for the same Democrats who have been treating them with contempt the past three years.

“The memos — which we first reported and can now be read at www.fairjudiciary.com — show the extent to which liberal interest groups are micromanaging the Democrats’ opposition to Mr. Bush’s judicial picks. That’s not exactly a news flash. But the details are pretty astonishing and expose the opposition for the cynically partisan, and sometimes race-baiting, exercise it is. As one memo to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin put it, Miguel Estrada had to be defeated because ‘he is Latino.’

“And there may be worse,” the newspaper said, referring to a memo that said Elaine Jones of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund wanted Democrats to “hold off” on confirming nominees to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals until the University of Michigan affirmative action case was decided.

Clinton still tardy

“If all goes according to plan, Bill Clinton — not John Kerry or even Howard Dean — will be the Democrat in the headlines in the weeks before the Democratic convention this summer. That is, assuming he makes the new deadline for his long-anticipated autobiography to arrive in bookstores,” Tamara Lipper reports in Newsweek.

“Characteristically, the former president is running on ‘Clinton time’: He’s late. A former staffer confirms that the initial goal of May has slipped to ‘the June-July period.’ Another person involved in the book project admits there is no date for publication yet but insists the goal remains the very vague ‘mid-‘04.’

“But even that may be optimistic, say Clinton insiders. They predict that if he misses the window between the end of the primaries and the political conventions, the book could be held until after the election year.”

Blame the weather

Some residents of Somerville, Mass., would like to throw their mayor into a snowbank, if they could find one.

Because of weather forecasts calling for up to 8 inches of snow, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone declared a snow emergency at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Within hours, with nary a flake in sight and barely any on the way, 3,000 cars were ticketed and another 200 were towed before the ban was lifted at 4:20 a.m., the Associated Press reports.

The tickets cost $50, and the tow jobs $145.

“They shouldn’t be able to charge you because they ain’t got no snow,” said Jeff Reislen, who got a ticket for parking on a snow emergency street. “This is ridiculous.”

The mayor disagreed. He said Wednesday that he has no plans to forgive the tickets or the towing charges, which could combine for a possible $179,000 windfall for the city.

“We are at the whim of forecasts and projections,” said Mr. Curtatone, who took office earlier this month. “Sometimes it snows more, sometimes less, sometimes not at all. We’re all in the same boat as far as projections.”

Speech impediment

Why is Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry such an awful speaker? Joe Klein asks in Time magazine.

“He’s not aloof, really, but formal in an old-fashioned way. He also suffers from a severe 40-year John F. Kennedy hangover. He has a weakness for ‘ask not’ rhetorical switchbacks: ‘Right now, most Americans are working for the economy. We need an economy that is working for Americans.’ This flourish can be deconstructed — working people are underpaid and don’t receive sufficient benefits (health, education, pension) from the world’s most powerful economy — but the language is abstract and overly fancy. It creates a distance between the candidate and the audience,” Mr. Klein said.

“There is also a claustrophobic and slightly narcissistic quality to Kerry’s speech; it’s all about his leadership, his vision.”

Backing Lieberman

The Arizona Republic yesterday urged its Democratic readers to vote for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in Tuesday’s primary.

Mr. Lieberman is unwilling to surrender his intellect and judgment “to a special-interest litany of litmus tests,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“Arizona ought to be the state that rewards Lieberman’s kind of political courage, to stand up for what he believes in and not always tack to the left with the prevailing winds.”

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

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