- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Fancy footwork

Well, the 2004 campaign is going to be about somebody, apparently.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe had this exchange yesterday:

“The very respected National Journal came out with its vote ratings for the year 2003 and it found that John Kerry was the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Wallace pointed out. “In fact, it found that on economic policy issues, he had a perfect liberal voting record. Fair to say that John Kerry is a liberal?”

“Well, this campaign is not going to be about different types of liberal, conservative. I don’t want this campaign to be fought about labels,” Mr. McAuliffe replied, explaining the election was “going to be about George Bush.”

Mr. Wallace persisted, however.

“But, Mr. McAuliffe, what about this question about the fact that he has this liberal voting record?” he asked.

“Chris, this is what the campaign’s going to be about,” Mr. McAuliffe replied. “If John Kerry is the nominee, this is what the campaign will be all about.”

Flagging interest

The campaign could also be about gaffes.

Some 400 members of the 3-week-old, North Carolina-based Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry staged a protest march Saturday at the Massachusetts Democrat’s office in Manhattan, they noted in an e-mail to The Washington Times yesterday.

The sharp-eyed vets noted Mr. Kerry was displaying the American flag backwards in the office window.

“A candidate who claims he ‘knows something about aircraft carriers for real’ never learned proper flag etiquette and has the flag displayed vertically with the blue field on the right, the wrong side. But then again, John Kerry has picked the wrong side before,” they observed.

Northern thoughts

A question the mainstream media and political rivals seem reluctant to tackle is “Why Kerry keeps bringing up the Vietnam War?” said the Toronto Sun’s Peter Worthington yesterday..

“Yes, he had a decent record, but he wasn’t Audie Murphy. (For those too young to remember, Murphy won every American decoration for valor in World War II and became a movie actor, but never aspired to be president.)

Mr. Worthington continued, “I would argue that Kerry keeps Vietnam at the forefront of his campaign because it is just about all he’s got … . Kerry thinks his brief tour in Vietnam qualifies him to be president and commander in chief. But commanding a riverboat and leading a country are different.

“While Bush has never commanded troops in the field, he performed admirably in rallying his country when it was attacked September 11. I’ll bet Republicans would be more uneasy with John Edwards as the Democratic nominee than they are about John Kerry who, without Vietnam, is not much,” Mr. Worthington concluded.

A Rangel wrangle

The departure of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was quickly made into a partisan issue yesterday.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, told ABC News that the White House was sending the message that the world could not “depend on the United States to respect the rule of law” and that we had “failed” Haiti.

“We are just as much a part of this coup d’etat as the rebels, as the looters, or anyone else,” said Mr. Rangel, adding that the Bush administration “made it abundantly clear that Aristide would do best by leaving the country. Which means that the rebels, the looters, and even those soldiers that Gen. [Colin L.] Powell chased out of Haiti, coming back and taking over, were given to believe that they should never, never, never accept Aristide as the president.”

Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, disagreed.

“I don’t think we encouraged this coup,” he told ABC. “Secretary Powell worked very hard to try to get the political opposition to agree to form a coalition government. Unfortunately, they just did not do it, and here we are today.”

‘Passion’ bounce

“The Passion of the Christ” may have political influence on the 2004 election, noted the New York Post’s Deborah Orin yesterday.

“Whenever religion becomes a central topic of discussion, Democrats don’t do so well, and now it’s really out there,” a Democratic activist told her, noting that the film links into public concern about “gay marriage and even Janet Jackson’s breast flash.”

“The movie has become a catalyst and a metaphor for discussions about religious belief,” said Republican pollster John McLaughlin, who sees it as part of a broader escalating debate over beliefs and cultural issues such as homosexual “marriage.”

Pundits and journalists scoffed in 2000 when presidential candidate Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus.

“They laughed, but it was a brilliant answer,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

The Post also noted that White House aides say Mr. Bush wants to see “The Passion of the Christ.” But when Democratic front-runner John Kerry was interested, he replied cautiously, “I don’t know,” saying he’s “concerned” the film’s portrayal of Jews could fuel anti-Semitism.

Waning interest

Members of a group of “gay Republicans called the ‘Austin 12’” are vexed by President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban homosexual “marriages,” Newsweek reports today.

“You know the concept of buyer’s remorse? I’ve got it. I want my money back,” said David A. Catania, a D.C. Council member who raised money for Mr. Bush. Now he says he won’t vote for the president, as do other members of the group.

“His most devoted gay supporters are wavering,” Newsweek reported.

But a White House aide clarified the situation, acknowledging that Mr. Bush has friends “who are homosexual.”

“He understands their position, but they might understand that he has his principles.”

Gipper Boulevard?

A group of Tennessee Republican lawmakers want state Route 840 renamed Ronald Reagan Parkway after the former president. The Senate Transportation Committee will consider the idea Wednesday, according to Sen. Jim Bryson of Franklin, who’s sponsoring a bill to rename the road in Williamson County.

“Does it need to be named for anybody?” countered Rep. John Hood, a Democrat. “Everybody knows it’s SR-840.”

Williamson County Republican Party Chairman Hugh DuPree doubts the name change will pass the state General Assembly because it’s dominated by Democrats. Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, won’t sign it either, according to the Review Appeal in Franklin yesterday.

But Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Brentwood, still supports the name change.

“Ronald Reagan did so much to encourage individual freedom, lower taxes and lighter regulation. If Mr. Bryson feels that’s appropriate and it’s the will of the constituents, I would certainly support that,” she said.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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