Thursday, January 8, 2004

Iowa extremists

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean four years ago derided caucuses as dominated by special interests, words that could haunt him with less than two weeks before the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses.

“If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests, in both sides, in both parties,” Mr. Dean said on the Canadian TV show “The Editors” in 2000. “The special interests don’t represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes.”

Mr. Dean quickly sought to stem the damage last night, saying, “I support the Iowa caucus” and will continue to press for its first-in-the-nation status.

He did not specifically address his comments made on the Canadian TV program.

“I have spent nearly two years here in Iowa, talking to Iowans and campaigning in all 99 counties,” Mr. Dean told the Associated Press.

Mr. Dean’s rivals gleefully seized on his comments as yet another gaffe by a candidate who has made several.

“I can’t understand his comments about special interests dominating the caucuses,” Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri said at a quickly called airport news conference. “Who are these special interests?”

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said: “Which Howard Dean are Iowans going to vote for [-] the one who insults them, or the one who will be soon releasing yet another clarifying statement?”

Amusing argument

Radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, writing at the Weekly Standard Web site (, was amused by the Democratic reaction to a ruling on Texas redistricting.

“Nancy Pelosi was upset after the federal appeals court upheld the new congressional districting map for the Lone Star State Tuesday: ‘This is just the latest attempt by President Bush, Tom DeLay and other Republicans to dismantle the Voting Rights Act. The Texas redistricting plan shows once again that when Republicans cannot win elections fair and square, they rig the rules.’

“Then Pelosi went Alamo: ‘We will fight to the finish for Texas.’

“That’s a wonderful image: The hyper-lefty from San Francisco leading a crusade to turn Texas into a Democratic state,” Mr. Hewitt said. “I hope someone brings a video camera. Sore loser rhetoric, of course, but amusing in the extreme considering that the redistricting battle has always been about undoing a deeply unfair incumbent protection plan cooked up by judges that saddled overwhelmingly Republican Texas with a Democratic majority in its Congressional delegation. What’s lovely to watch is the attempt by the suddenly soon-to-be-retired Texas Democrats to hang their outrage on the Voting Rights Act.”

Mr. Hewitt added: “The new map locks the current Republican domination of the House into place at least until 2012 and probably until 2022. It is hard to see where Democrats can find a population trend sufficiently large to undo the 30- to 40-seat margin the GOP should have after the dust clears in November.”

Hard to like

“I want to like Howard Dean. I don’t mean I want to support him; I mean I want to like him, or find him admirable even if I don’t agree with him,” Peggy Noonan writes at

“I want the Democratic Party to have a strong nominee this year, for several reasons. One is that it is one of our two great parties, and it is dispiriting to think it is not able to summon up a deeply impressive contender. Another is that democracy is best served by excellent presidential nominees duking it out region to region in a hard-fought campaign that seriously raises the pressing issues of the day. A third is that the Republican Party is never at its best when faced with a lame challenger. When faced with a tough and scrappy competitor like Bill Clinton, they came up with the Contract with America. When faced with Michael Dukakis they came up with flag-burning amendments. They need to be in a serious fight before they fight seriously,” Mrs. Noonan said.

Although he occasionally says something refreshing, “it is hard to like Howard Dean. He seems as big a trimmer as Bill Clinton, and as bold and talented in that area as Mr. Clinton. He says America is no safer for the capture of Saddam Hussein, and then he says he didn’t say it. He floats a rumor that the Saudis tipped off President Bush before 9/11, and then he says he never believed it. When he is caught and has to elaborate, explain or disavow, he dissembles with Clintonian bravado. This is not a good sign.”

Bloomberg’s rebate

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, facing dismal poll ratings and a host of potential challengers to his re-election in 2005, offered rebates yesterday to blunt voters’ pain from a boost in property taxes.

In his annual speech on the state of America’s largest city, the Republican — elected just two months after September 11 — said the roughly $250 million in rebates would repay residents for a “painful” 18.5 percent property tax increase in 2002, Reuters news agency reports.

“The people of this city had to reach deeper into their pockets to get us through the past two years,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

“Now that the crisis is beginning to subside, it’s time to reward them and reduce the burden on their shoulders.”

Analysts said the rebates, worth $400 per homeowner, could ease pain from one of Mr. Bloomberg’s least popular policies.

Hip-hop voters

Some of the biggest names in hip-hop are stepping up their drive to register young people to vote with a radio campaign that could reach more than 2 million listeners a day.

The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, founded by mogul Russell Simmons, announced its “One Mind. One Vote” partnership with syndicated radio personality Doug Banks at a news conference Wednesday.

The radio campaign will launch Jan. 19 in Times Square, the Associated Press reports.

“Radio is the drumbeat of our community,” said Benjamin Chavis, the hip-hop group’s president and chief executive, and a former leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The network hopes to register 2 million voters in 2004 and 20 million over the next five years by reaching out to young hip-hop fans and holding registration drives at concerts and other events.

‘Governator’ beer

For Californians who can’t get enough of bodybuilder turned film star turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a brewery in the neighboring state of Oregon is offering a new full-bodied beer labeled “The Governator.”

Portland-based MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co., which brews a popular regional beer of the same name, came up with the idea for the strong brew just before the holidays last year and has seen brisk demand for the extra-special bitter ale, Reuters news agency reports.

The label for “The Governator Ale” features a man flexing his muscles beneath a logo of the state of California with the words “Pumping Iron Brewing” superimposed on top.

The beer, which is also higher in alcohol content, comes in oversized 22-ounce bottles that sell for about $2.99 each. It is available in California but distributors in Oregon and Washington are still uninterested, said company spokeswoman Renee Daniels.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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