Monday, May 10, 2004

Embracing Sharpton

“Teresa Heinz Kerry’s weekend embrace of the Rev. Al Sharpton hints at a behind-the-scenes struggle between John Kerry and the Rev. Jesse Jackson,” Fredric U. Dicker reports, citing anonymous “Democratic insiders.”

“The insiders said Jackson has been aggressively pressuring Kerry’s campaign to hire several of his key political aides — as well as agreeing to give him a chance to address the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer during a prime-time television broadcast,” Mr. Dicker writes.

“‘Jesse is up to his old tricks again, threatening to peddle stories that Kerry is hostile to blacks, if he doesn’t get what he wants,’ said a prominent New York Democrat familiar with the situation.

“‘Obviously, Teresa Kerry’s visit to the [Sharpton-run National Action] Network was a direct shot at Jesse, who has been noticeably absent from the Kerry presidential campaign,’ the Democrat continued.

“Mrs. Kerry heard Sharpton say her husband’s campaign was more racially inclusive ‘in this stage’ of the contest than was the Clinton campaign 12 years ago.”

Good into bad

“After Friday’s government announcement that 288,000 more jobs were created in April, reducing the unemployment rate by a point to 5.6 percent as job-creation numbers for February and March were revised upward, Richard J. DeKaser, chief economist at the National City Corporation in Cleveland, told the New York Times: ‘You’d be hard-pressed to find a dark lining in this cloud,’” the Media Research Center said in its daily CyberAlert.

“But ABC News managed to, as anchor Peter Jennings asserted: ‘When you look at the kind of work people are getting, however, the news is a little less encouraging.’ ABC’s downbeat story focused on service-sector jobs and those who are ‘underemployed,’ Brent Baker writes at

“That was the second time in eight days that a network has turned good news into bad. The April 30 CyberAlert recounted: Good news, but. NBC’s Tom Brokaw on Thursday [April 29] night highlighted how ‘the government reported today that GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year,’ but he then added an ominous ‘but’ as he warned, ‘but there are also growing fears tonight that the good news may have a dark side.’ That dark side, as outlined in a full story by Anne Thompson: potential interest-rate hikes and inflation — as illustrated by the price of nails.”

Defending Rumsfeld

“Donald Rumsfeld has been designated by Democratic politicians as the scapegoat for the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. But any resignation would only whet their appetite to cut and run,” New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

“The highly effective defense secretary owes it to the nation’s war on terror to soldier on,” the columnist said.

He added: “The United States shows the world its values by investigating and prosecuting wrongdoers high and low. It is not in our political value system to scapegoat a good man for the depraved acts of others. Nor does it make strategic sense to remove a war leader in the vain hope of appeasing critics of the war.”

Space speech

President Bush plans to make a major speech early this summer defending his plan for a new U.S. space-exploration initiative, administration sources told United Press International.

Sources said that although drafting the speech — termed a vigorous call to support the president’s new space-exploration policy he announced in January — has yet to begin, aides have been narrowing prospective dates and venues.

“The president wants to speak about space,” a senior administration source said.

The speech apparently will be timed to coincide with a report by the presidential commission appointed earlier this year to review the space plan and seek broad public comment, reporter Frank Sietzen said. The commission, headed by former Pentagon executive Pete Aldridge and featuring leaders from industry, nonprofit groups and the military, is expected to release its report in July.

Abuse poll

The Iraqi prisoner-abuse issue has had little or no effect on domestic U.S. politics, according to polling released yesterday.

The University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey of 1,030 adults, taken Thursday through Sunday, showed that Americans don’t believe soldiers were ordered to mistreat Iraqi prisoners, but a majority, 52 percent, do believe the Pentagon tried to cover the issue up.

According to Annenberg, 47 percent of the public said the soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad acted on their own, against 31 percent who said they were following orders and 6 percent who said they were both acting on their own and following orders. The margin of error was three percentage points.

The poll also found that a large majority of Americans — 66 percent — don’t believe Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should resign over the issue, as several Democratic lawmakers, including presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, have demanded.

“There was no indication of any immediate political impact from the issue. Respondents from battleground states and persuadable voters everywhere responded in much the same way as did the public at large. Nor was there any statistically significant change in the public’s view of how President Bush was handling the situation in Iraq,” Annenberg said.

Nader failure

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has failed to obtain the lawful number of signatures in time to gain a spot on the November ballot in Texas.

So the campaign announced it filed a federal lawsuit in Austin challenging the state’s election laws, with its petition-signature requirement and 60-day timetable for collecting the signatures, as unconstitutional.

“Democracy is under assault in Texas. Through unconstitutional laws and denial of access to public places, Texas voters are being denied more voices and more choices. One of the goals of this campaign is to open up the ballot in Texas, not only for this campaign, but for future campaigns by other candidates,” Mr. Nader said yesterday.

The campaign had to collect at least 64,076 signatures from registered voters who did not vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries by 5 p.m. yesterday. Volunteers reported having about 40,000 heading into the weekend, but no final tally was available.

Mr. Nader has yet to qualify officially for any state’s presidential ballot.

A little short

They called it the Million Mom March, but organizers estimated that only about 2,500 showed up for the antigun rally Sunday in Washington.

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

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