- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Unhappy advocate

The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America blames advisers to Sen. John Kerry for what she sees as the Democratic presidential candidate’s apparent waffling on nominating only pro-choice judges.

Mr. Kerry said last month that he would consider abortion opponents for lower court judgeships, although he pledged to protect the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.

But Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood, whose political arm has endorsed Mr. Kerry, is not satisfied.

“I think John Kerry understands viscerally reproductive rights as being related to women’s human rights globally,” she told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “But he’s got to come up with some better language to talk about it, and I think he’s being poorly advised, poorly served by some of his advisers at the moment.”

She said Mr. Kerry, like Democrat Al Gore in 2000, has become overly cautious when it comes to reproductive rights and would be better served by voters come November if he would talk more forcefully about the subject and set out a clearer agenda on issues from birth control to sex education.

“I want to hear candidates talk about what their agenda is going to be, not just to say I’m philosophically pro-choice,” she said.

Gray TV

Former California Gov. Gray Davis, replaced last year by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, seems to be seeking a show biz career.

Mr. Davis, 61, appears in a promotional spot that CBS created for advertisers after singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and other network problems, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Davis appears commiserating with disgraced baseball star Pete Rose and other down-on-their-luck celebrities.

“You guys think you had a bad year?” Mr. Davis tells the group. “I was replaced by the guy who starred in ‘Conan the Barbarian.’ ”

Mr. Davis also stars in a series of ads for Yahoo, saying he can use the search engine to find an agent now that he is out of a job.

“An actor got to be governor; maybe a former governor can go into acting,” Mr. Davis says in the ad.

Taking shape

“The presidential election began to take shape this week, almost in spite of itself. Did you notice?” Peggy Noonan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“In a series of interviews and speeches, President Bush made it clear that he is running on three things: Iraq and its profound promise for a better world in spite of the struggle; faith-based social reform, which is to say the allowance of the reality of God in certain publicly financed organizations aimed at helping the young and the stressed; and the legitimacy of his tax cuts, both their practical benefits and their inherent justice.

“This seems to me pretty smart as a way to go, and clear,” the writer said.

“John Kerry, meanwhile, emerged with a new approach: Future terrorism on U.S. soil is the great issue of our time, and Mr. Bush has not done enough to make America safer. It is smart of Mr. Kerry to get to Mr. Bush’s right on this, and it will make the administration sharper. Mr. Kerry’s is also an unanswerable challenge: There will, of course, be terror events down the road, and deadly ones, and it will always turn out that the government could have done more, for it always could have.

“Mr. Kerry is also applying a kind of argumentative prophylactic: If al Qaeda hits before the election, he warned you. He is planting seeds so that your first thought, on the day of an event, is not ‘I will support my president in this time of crisis’ but ‘Bush didn’t keep us safe, fire him!’

“But Mr. Kerry continues to have a major internal structural problem. It is that he can always tell you his position, or his latest position, but he can somehow never quite explain to you the thinking behind it. He continues to seem unable to explain the philosophy and logic. It leaves one assuming his problem is that his thinking relies on an old and cliche-riddled leftism that is not so much thought through as declared and imposed.”

Partisan probe?

A group of Democrats in the House said yesterday that they would begin their own probe of the Iraq prison-abuse scandal, citing what they called a lack of interest by the Republican majority.

The six top Democrats on House committees that could be involved in the investigation into the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad wrote President Bush to say they intended to investigate the extent of the abuse, Reuters news agency reports.

They said they also would look into reports of abuse in U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Despite the magnitude of the Abu Ghraib and other detainee abuses and their enormous ramifications for our effort in Iraq and U.S. foreign policy, no House committees are currently undertaking a formal public investigation,” the Democrats wrote. “This is a dereliction of Congress’ oversight responsibility that ill serves our nation and our troops.”

FEC blockage

Sen. John McCain is trying to block the appointment of a union lawyer to the Federal Election Commission, taking on Democratic congressional leaders who recommended the lawyer for the job.

Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, opposes Democratic leaders’ effort to replace Commissioner Scott Thomas, a Democrat praised for seeking tough enforcement of a new campaign-finance law, with Robert Lenhard, associate general counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Mr. Lenhard was among those trying to have the law overturned.

Mr. Thomas’ term on the commission expired last year, but he can continue in the post until he is replaced. He is eligible to serve one more six-year term.

Mr. McCain wrote Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, last month that he will object to anyone nominated to succeed Mr. Thomas. That means it would take a tough-to-achieve 60 votes for a candidate to win Senate confirmation to replace Mr. Thomas, the Associated Press reports.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, in the summer recommended Mr. Lenhard as Mr. Thomas’ successor. The six-member FEC has three Democrats and three Republicans, and congressional leaders traditionally recommend people to the president to fill their party’s seats.

The veep search

“Call it McCain envy,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“After months of hyping the dream that Republican Sen. John McCain could be his running mate — no matter how often McCain said no — John Kerry needs to prepare allies for a far less electrifying choice,” Miss Orin said.

“Team Kerry launched the McCain retreat by spinning that President Bush’s troubles in Iraq make it easier to pick a ‘safe if unexciting choice’ like Rep. Dick Gephardt or Sen. John Edwards instead of the ‘riskier’ McCain.

“Yeah, right. Kerry would grab McCain if he’d just say yes. But McCain is a man of deep personal honor who spent five extra years as a Vietnam POW rather than take special favors. And he’s given his word to Bush.

“So this week, the conventional wisdom is betting on Edwards. Problem: Kerry just doesn’t seem to like the more charismatic Edwards.”

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

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