- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Kerry’s absence

Allies of Sen. John Kerry on Capitol Hill were busy yesterday “explaining why his absence didn’t actually doom a push to extend unemployment benefits — something he has championed on the trail,” CNN’s John Mercurio writes in the Morning Grind column at www.cnn.com.

“Democrats tried to attach the benefit to a corporate tax bill. But in a 59-40 vote, they fell just shy of the 60 votes needed to overcome objections that extending the benefits violated last year’s budget deal,” Mr. Mercurio said.

“Whether they supported the extension or not, Republicans pounced. ‘Last month, John Kerry was pushing for the extension of unemployment benefits,’ Bush/Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt said. ‘Today, he had the chance to actually vote on that question, but was too busy playing politics when he would have made the difference in the Senate.’

“Kerry, who was stumping in Kentucky while the Senate roll call was read, said [Tuesday] that Republicans engineered the vote to embarrass him. ‘We were told no matter what would happen, they would change a vote in the Senate, and they were not going to let [the extension of unemployment benefits] happen. So it’s really not a one-vote margin. They don’t want it to happen,’ he said in Jacksonville late [Tuesday]. ‘They’re playing a game.’

“That may well be true; that [Senate Majority Leader] Bill Frist is one sneaky Tennessean. Still, we look forward to watching Kerry offer that explanation during his next jobs bus trip through Ohio.”

Stockholm syndrome?

During a telephone press conference yesterday by Bush re-election Chairman Marc Racicot, one reporter covering Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry defended Mr. Kerry from charges of politicizing the war in Iraq for political gain.

“I’ve been following John Kerry around, and it’s like pulling teeth to get him to talk about this prison issue or Iraq in general,” said The Washington Post’s Jim VandeHei, according to a recording later posted on the Bush campaign’s Web site. “Isn’t this just a clever political strategy on your part to accuse him of politicizing the war when he’s not politicizing the war, simply to make voters think he is politicizing the war? Why shouldn’t we think that?”

Mr. Racicot responded that he was merely quoting from the following statement by Mr. Kerry: “It’s not just a few privates and corporals, sergeants [behind the abuse of prisoners]. This is something that comes out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war. It is an attitude that comes out of how we view the prisoners. It is an attitude that comes out of an overall arrogance and policy.”

Mr. Racicot said Mr. Kerry was smearing the entire Iraq effort with the abusive actions of a handful of soldiers.

Mr. VandeHei replied that it was “a huge stretch.”

Not so funny

“The United States ‘is on the slippery slope to theocratic fascism.’ ‘The Catholic Church has been secretly encouraging oral sex for years.’

“‘Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ‘ought to be tortured.’ ‘President Bush should be taken out and shot.’”

“Those are a few nutso nuggets from the hosts of Air America Radio, which calls itself the new liberal voice,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“The fledgling network is carried in New York on WLIB, 1190 AM. With the Iraq torture scandal everywhere, I tuned in, expecting to hear sober policy analysis mixed with glee over President Bush’s political pickle,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Instead, I got 10 hours of rancid venom directed at the president, Rumsfeld, Rush Limbaugh, the Catholic Church and anyone else the hosts felt like slamming. If you’re a card-carrying lib who likes crude sex jokes and a cartoonish echo chamber, Air America is for you.

“Take one host’s linking the talk of ‘pulling out’ the troops with the claim that ‘that’s what the Catholic Church says about premarital sex.’ Ha, ha.

“The network aims to give Democrats a media organization to counter Mr. Limbaugh and others on the right who dominate talk radio. (What, National Public Radio and the New York Times aren’t enough?)

“The signing of comedian and best-selling author Al Franken gave Air America a liberal drawing card. But if his three-hour show on Monday was typical, he could sink the ship instead of saving it.”

Jesse’s ‘war crimes’

Some Democrats have called for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign because of revelations that some U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners.

That’s not enough for the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“The issue is not to fire Rumsfeld. He should be tried for war crimes,” Mr. Jackson said Tuesday at a press conference in Atlanta. “Those prison scenes can be found in Georgia. The difference is this has been caught on television. But all of the treatment is unacceptable.”

A reporter asked Mr. Jackson about the newly released video of Islamic militants decapitating an American civilian in Iraq.

“The cycle of killing must end,” Mr. Jackson said, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “When they found Jessica Lynch, she was unharmed and cared for. When they found Shoshana Johnson, she was unharmed and cared for. The impact of the public disclosure has made life more difficult for those over there. Until the occupation ends, the violence will only intensify.”

The Kerrys’ taxes

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry likes to complain about “tax cuts for the rich,” but he and his heiress wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, paid only 15.2 percent of their gross income in federal taxes last year, NewsMax.com reports.

The figure is around half the amount of income tax paid by President Bush and his wife, first lady Laura Bush, as a proportion of their household income, NewsMax said.

The Bushes paid $227,000 in federal taxes on a gross 2003 income of $822,126. Their Internal Revenue Service bill amounted to 28 percent of their household income.

But Mrs. Kerry, who, as one of the richest women in the United States files separately from her husband, paid just half that amount as a percentage of her income, forking over to the IRS $587,000 on a $5 million-plus 2003 gross income.

An estimated tax payment on a filing due in October brought her total 2003 IRS bill up to $750,000, her campaign said Tuesday. But even with additional payment, Mrs. Kerry’s federal tax tab amounted to just 14.6 percent of her gross income.

Added to her husband’s $90,575 IRS payment on a gross 2003 income of $395,338, the Kerrys’ total federal tax bill came to $840,500 — or just 15.2 percent of their $5,510,000 household income.

“The would-be first lady’s tax bill was so low because she sheltered more than half her income — $2,777,000 — in tax-exempt bonds,” NewsMax said.

The end is near

Former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar claimed another victory in his election dispute with U.S. Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez when a judge ruled that after two months and two recounts, Mr. Cuellar is the Democratic congressional nominee.

The battle moves to an appeals court, which will have the last word, in the next few weeks, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

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

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