- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Laura’s response

Laura Bush, whose father died from Alzheimer’s, said yesterday she admired Nancy Reagan’s devotion to former President Ronald Reagan until his death, but could not support her call for relaxation of stem-cell research restrictions.

Mrs. Bush, whose father died in 1997, said she had great respect for the former first lady and that she was an excellent role model for families struggling to cope with the illness, Reuters news agency reports.

“I know how very difficult it is for the patient, obviously, but also for the caregiver. It requires unbelievable strength of character to take care of the person you love as you see them slip away like that — ‘the long goodbye’ they call Alzheimer’s,” the first lady told the CBS “Early Show” from Sea Island, Ga., where leaders of the Group of Eight countries are meeting.

The Bush administration has placed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research and opposes using stem cells from most embryos, a stand Mrs. Bush said she supported.

“There are stem cells to do research on and … we have to be really careful between what we want to do for science and what we should do ethically,” the first lady said. “Stem cell … is certainly one of those issues that we need to treat very carefully.”

Pressed on whether she was prepared to endorse Mrs. Reagan’s impassioned call for restrictions to be lifted, she replied, “No.”

Perfect timing

“As if he didn’t have enough to deal with — a gaggle of cooks in his campaign kitchen, a job-creation surge that muddles his economic message, an air-hogging, book-hawking Bill ClintonSen. John Kerry now has to deal with this: a week of justifiable nostalgia for the late Ronald Reagan,”Newsweek’s Howard Fineman writes at www.msnbc.msn.com.

“The Gipper’s passing won’t be enough to re-elect George W. Bush, but it may well help the president in terms of timing, tactics and message,” Mr. Fineman said.

“After a series of closed-door strategy meetings in Boston last weekend, Kerry was set this week to pop forth with a newly revised economic message, designed to stress the quality and salary level of jobs rather than their mere existence. But the rollout is now delayed, or smothered, as Kerry sensibly goes dark for most of the week, which will be dominated by Reagan’s funeral. …

“There is little risk, and a bit to gain, for Bush in associating with the Reagan aura. Voters on the left who think the comparison is damning to Bush weren’t going to support him anyway; voters on the right who think the comparison makes Bush look small are going to vote for Bush anyway. Voters in the middle who still aren’t sure what to make of Bush may see a wee bit more vision in his thinking — and vision is a thing every president (and every president running for re-election) needs.

“This season of remembering Reagan helps the Republicans in another way. It diminishes the accomplishments of the Democrats’ two-termer — Clinton — who is launching a nostalgia tour of his own this month. The Clinton years were among the most prosperous in modern American history. But even Democrats would have to admit that Reagan’s signal achievement — joining Maggie Thatcher, Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II in toppling the Soviet Union — is a tad more significant than outlasting the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.”

Anchors a-wail

Anchormen Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw work for different networks, but agree one thing — coverage of Ronald Reagan’s death has been excessive, they say.

“Even though everybody is respectful and wants to pay homage to the president, life does go on,” Mr. Rather told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“There is other news, like the reality of Iraq,” said the “CBS Evening News” anchor. “It got very short shrift this weekend.”

Networks have been going almost wall-to-wall with coverage since Mr. Reagan passed away Saturday at the age of 93. The former president was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease nearly 10 years ago.

“Once the herd starts moving in one direction, it’s very hard to turn it, even slightly,” Mr. Rather said. “Nationally, the herd has grown tremendously.”

“I think just about everything is over-covered these days,” said Mr. Brokaw, who anchors “NBC Nightly News.” “The spectrum is so crowded. With all the cable networks, it begins to have a ‘video wall’ feeling to it.”

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings said he had mixed feelings about the Reagan coverage, the New York Post reports, citing his interview with the Inquirer.

“I’m more inclined to spare coverage — come on [the air], do something meaningful, then get away,” he said.

“The last time I had to do it was with O.J. Simpson [during the 1994 car chase], and I had nothing to say after a certain period of time.”

Alaska law

A bill to prevent Alaska governors from making any more long-term appointments to the U.S. Senate became law over the weekend, without Gov. Frank Murkowski’s signature.

The law passed after the Republican appointed his daughter, then state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, to fill his Senate seat following his election as governor in 2002. The appointment led to cries of nepotism from many Alaskans.

The new law calls for a special election to be held 60 to 90 days after a Senate vacancy occurs. Previously, the governor could appoint a new senator if less than 2½ years remained in the departing lawmaker’s term.

The new law still allows the governor to appoint a replacement, but the replacement would serve only until the special election is held, the Associated Press reports.

The governor’s spokesman, John Manly, said Mr. Murkowski did not say why he did not sign the bill. “I’m not aware of any position we took on it,” Mr. Manly said.

The governor has 20 days to sign or veto a bill once it reaches his desk. If he takes no action, the bill becomes law without his signature.

Legislators passed the law earlier this year after it became clear that a measure to do roughly the same thing had gathered enough signatures to go on the November ballot.

New dates

Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that the Los Angeles concert originally scheduled for this past Monday to benefit the Kerry Victory Committee 2004 has been rescheduled for June 24 and the New York concert originally scheduled for today has been rescheduled for July 8.

The events were postponed owing to the death of former President Ronald Reagan.

The Los Angeles concert will feature Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson and Billy Crystal with an all-star cast of celebrity presenters and performers to be announced at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The New York concert will be held at Radio City Music Hall. The roster of performers will be announced next week.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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