- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

Kerry’s faith

“The last time a major political party put forward a Roman Catholic candidate for president, he had to confront bigotry and suspicion that he would be taking orders from Rome,” write Time reporters Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon Jr.

“Forty-four years later, the Democrats are poised to nominate another Catholic — another senator from Massachusetts whose initials happen to be JFK — and this time, the controversy over his religion may develop within the Catholic Church itself.

“Kerry’s positions on some hot-button issues aren’t sitting well with members of the church elite. Just listen to a Vatican official, who is an American: ‘People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there’s a problem with John Kerry, and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion.’

“But it’s far from clear whether the greater political problem is Kerry’s or the church’s. ‘I don’t think it complicates things at all,’ Kerry told Time in an interview aboard his campaign plane on Saturday, the first in which he has discussed his faith extensively. ‘We have a separation of church and state in this country. As John Kennedy said very clearly, I will be a president who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic president.’

“Still, when Kennedy ran for President in 1960, a candidate could go through an entire campaign without ever having to declare his position on abortion — much less stem cells, cloning or gay marriage.”

The reporters add: “Already, one employee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington says he has lost his job as a result of his political activities on Kerry’s behalf. Ono Ekeh was a program coordinator for the conference until last month, when he says his supervisors there confronted him with what he had written — sometimes using workplace computers — on his Yahoo discussion-group [Web site], Catholics for Kerry.

“What alerted them to his postings, he believes, was a mass e-mail by activist Deal Hudson, editor of a Catholic magazine, Crisis, and a close ally of the Bush White House. Ekeh, 33, had criticized the bishops’ recent edicts that Catholic politicians should vote according to church teaching.”

Three-man race

The shape of the U.S. Senate race in Georgia “has undergone a subtle change,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“Not the Democratic side. That remains an embarrassing disaster. We’re talking about the Republican contest,” write reporters Tom Baxter and Jim Galloway.

“The campaign of Johnny Isakson on Thursday passed around some points from his well-known Washington pollster, Linda DiVall.

“Any candidate poll that reaches the public eye is by definition self-serving. And Isakson’s is no different. His name identification is high, his favorability ratings are unassailable. Ho-hum.

“The real news in the Isakson survey is that his two opponents — U.S. Rep. Mac Collins and millionaire entrepreneur Herman Cain — are in a statistical dead heat for second place.

“A conservative African-American who made his fortune with the Godfather’s pizza chain, Cain has spent the last six weeks — and a great deal of money — on Georgia television trying to shed his ‘nobody’ status and define himself as a conservative purist.

“It seems to be working. It also seems that Cain’s gains are coming out of Collins’ hide.”

The reporters added: “Collins and Cain agree that they’re in a race for second place in the July 20 primary — and the chance to deal Isakson a killing blow in a runoff. …

“Still, the third man in this Republican race for the U.S. Senate — an African-American and a rookie — has reshaped the race.”

King in the ring

The Republican National Committee, which invented an online “Kerry vs. Kerry” game to make fun of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has turned to boxing promoter Don King as its new voice at www.gop.com/kerryvskerry.

“Kerry vs. Kerry players will now hear Don King’s voice when they log on to go a few rounds with Senator Kerry,” the RNC said in a press release, which provided a text of Mr. King’s performance:

“Ladies and gentleman: Welcome to Kerry versus Kerry, the battle for the Democratic Party.

“In one corner, hailing from Massachusetts, in the red trunks with a 35-year record, 19 of it in the United States Senate — 350 votes for higher taxes, votes to eliminate important intelligence funding — Senator John Kerry.

“In the other corner, also hailing from Massachusetts, wearing blue trunks with a 35-year record, 19 of it in the United States Senate — proposed trillions in new spending and higher taxes on the campaign trail, says he has the support of foreign leaders — Senator John Kerry.”

At the end of the bout, Mr. King says:

“Ladies and gentleman, what you have just witnessed tonight is some of the greatest dancing, bobbing, weaving, sticking, moving and ducking by Kerry. It was certainly entertaining.”

The RNC added, “After each round, players will also hear commentary from King on Kerry’s boxing technique.”

Bye-bye, Banfield

Less than a year after bashing her own network for its war coverage in Iraq, NBC News reporter Ashleigh Banfield has reportedly been given the ax.

The New York Daily News says the Canadian native has been working without a contract since late January, and she will no longer be employed at MSNBC, where she has been the last four years.

“Regrettably, we were unable to agree on a new assignment for her,” an NBC News spokeswoman told the Daily News. “We thank her for her hard work and wish her well.”

WorldNetDaily (www.WorldNetDaily.com), which picked up the Daily News story yesterday, reported a year ago that Miss Banfield was officially scolded by network President Neal Shapiro for remarks ripping her TV news colleagues for supposedly sugarcoating Iraq war coverage with patriotism.

Surgery for Kerry

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will be temporarily sidelined from the campaign trail to undergo minor shoulder surgery Wednesday in Boston.

The Massachusetts senator, who recently returned from a six-day ski trip in Idaho, aggravated an old biking injury while campaigning in Iowa.

Mr. Kerry has especially felt the pain while holding babies during campaign events, Kerry spokesman David Wade said.

He will leave the hospital shortly after the operation, Agence France-Presse reports.

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

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