- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Pre-emptive attack

For the second year, Democrats in Congress hope to overshadow President Bush’s annual State of the Union speech with their own pre-emptive address.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California are preparing a joint speech that, it seems safe to say, will be critical of Bush administration policies. The speech will be given at the National Press Club in Washington on Jan. 16, United Press International reports.

The two Democratic leaders are also expected to give the traditional opposition-party rebuttal to Mr. Bush’s Jan. 20 speech to Congress.

Bradley and Dean

Former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, who lost his 2000 presidential bid to Al Gore, is expected to endorse Democratic front-runner Howard Dean today in New Hampshire, political sources told Reuters news agency.

Mr. Dean, who was campaigning in northeastern Iowa, refused to confirm the endorsement, but scrapped a planned pancake breakfast in Iowa today and was to fly to Manchester, N.H., last night.

“I can’t say anything about this right now,” he told reporters as he shook hands with breakfast customers at Tom’s Family Restaurant in New Hampton, Iowa.

Mr. Dean plans to return today to Iowa, where he will participate in a radio debate with five of the other Democratic candidates vying to challenge President Bush in November.

Right on target

In Sunday’s Democratic debate in Iowa, Howard Dean said he would “balance the budget in the sixth or seventh year” of his administration, a comment that drew laughter from an audience either amused by his chutzpah or just amazed that he could make such a claim while promising to add so many goodies to the federal shopping cart.

Mr. Dean, summing up his view of the fiscal folly of President Bush’s tax cuts, said: “You cannot balance the budget and tell people you are going to keep all these tax cuts.”

Well, that’s not what the Congressional Budget Office says.

The CBO, which is charged by Congress to calculate the long-term effects of government policy, projects that the Bush economic plan, including his huge tax cuts, would reduce the federal deficit to just $9 billion in 2011 and run a surplus of $161 billion in 2012 — which would be years six and seven of a Dean administration.

Clark’s tax plan

Wesley Clark yesterday released a tax plan to benefit 31 million U.S. families while increasing taxation rates for the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

The Democratic presidential candidate and former Army general said that families of four making less than $50,000 a year would pay no income tax while families that make less than $100,000 and have children would get some kind of tax break, United Press International reports.

The press release from the Clark campaign said any drop-off in federal funds would be made up by closing corporate loopholes and increasing income taxes for people making more than $1 million a year by 5 percentage points, to just under 45 percent.

“We’re going to simplify the tax system and make it easier and fairer for all working Americans,” Mr. Clark said in the release.

Kerry’s tax plan

Sen. John Kerry yesterday dismissed the current economic recovery as “Bush-league” while outlining his own program of fiscal measures.

The Massachusetts Democrat and presidential candidate, in a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, said recent signs of a booming economy were largely confined to the wealthy and corporate interests, Reuters news service reports.

He proposed a package of tax measures designed to keep U.S. jobs from moving overseas by making it more expensive for companies that take jobs offshore and rewarding companies that create U.S. jobs with a tax credit and help with health care costs.

“America has a problem when the workers who help build this economy are pocketing pennies while the few bragging about a recovery are bagging billions,” Mr. Kerry said. “America can do better than a Bush-league recovery. We can have a real recovery that reaches every American.”

Buyer’s remorse

“A year ago, Democratic leaders were convinced a key to winning the White House was to minimize internal bickering and settle early on a nominee. That candidate could then speak for a united party against President Bush,” John Fund writes at the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal.com.

“The party has gotten its wish — a jammed early-primary schedule virtually guarantees the Democratic candidate will be known by early March — but party leaders now seem to be having buyer’s remorse. The nominee will be either the mercurial and error-prone Howard Dean or someone who may have a hard time exciting fanatic Dean supporters,” Mr. Fund said.

“James Carville, the razor-tongued Democratic strategist, was among many party leaders who were certain of a cure for the Democrats’ blues: ‘We’ve really got to get a presidential nominee,’ he said in February. ‘And the quicker the better.’ Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe listened to this siren song and helped engineer a change in the party’s 20-year-old rule that no state other than Iowa and New Hampshire could vote for delegates before March.

“Iowa and New Hampshire promptly moved their voting dates to Jan. 19 and Jan. 27, respectively. That meant holiday-distracted voters would have only a few weeks to pay attention to the actual race once the New Year’s bubbly wore off. That meant that for all of 2003, liberal party activists were in the driver’s seat when it came to deciding who would raise the most money and be anointed the front-runner in media coverage. That turned out to be Mr. Dean, who tapped into activist rage over the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and lingering anger over the disputed Florida recount in 2000.”

Thune vs. Daschle

Former Rep. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, announced yesterday that he intends to run against Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle this fall, giving Republicans a high-profile challenger to one of President Bush’s most persistent critics in Congress.

“Tomorrow, I will start filing the necessary paperwork to enable me to raise the money and organize a campaign for the United States Senate,” Mr. Thune said last night at a Republican dinner in Sioux Falls, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Thune is expected to delay a formal announcement of his candidacy for a brief period, although he intends to begin raising campaign funds immediately, officials said.

Mr. Daschle will be seeking his fourth term representing a Republican-leaning state in the Senate.

Arnold’s speech

Final preparations were under way in Sacramento, Calif., yesterday for the first State of the State speech by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was expected to use tonight’s speech to lay out plans for major spending cuts and to urge voters to pass a $15 billion bond measure in March that will help close the budget deficit for the current fiscal year, United Press International reports.

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

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