- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004


Wow, has the 2004 presidential campaign turned ugly, or what?

Asked yesterday about former Vice President Al Gore’s comment that Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent remarks about terrorism — that, for safety’s sake, it would behoove voters to re-elect the Republicans — were sleazy and despicable, White House spokesman Scott McClellan replied: “Consider the source.”

Scared yet?

The purported George W. Bush-Dick Cheney re-election strategy of peddling “fear” is reportedly spreading to Capitol Hill.

“The latest rumor on the Hill is the Republicans will engulf the Senate floor in divisive debates,” we’re told by Sen. Jon Corzine, New Jersey Democrat, dragging the Senate “through the same divisive strategy they’ve used on the campaign trail.”

As for proof, the senator notes that Congress “is barely back in session and … Senate President Dick Cheney kicked off the legislative season with yet another outrageous statement.”

He was referring, as in our previous item, to Mr. Cheney’s remark that “it’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

Milked twice

Oh, the webs that are weaved in Washington.

One of the apparent, more sticky ones is resulting in a public interest watchdog group calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate its multimillion-dollar contract with one of Washington’s largest public relations firm.

Published reports reveal that Ketchum Communications is the HHS’s principal contractor in its $87 million campaign to win public support for changes to Medicare. At the same time, the same PR firm is under contract with the American Society of Clinical Oncologists to scuttle some of the very changes HHS is paying it to promote.

(Kind of reminds us when the competing Bob Dole and Jack Kemp Republican presidential primary campaigns were being run by the same political relations firm).

In a letter sent to the HHS inspector general, Public Interest Watch Executive Director Lewis Fein cites “a blatant conflict of interest in this matter and that taxpayer funds are being used inappropriately as a result.”

Losing bids

King Street Blues, the last remaining “roadhouse” of its kind in Alexandria, has gotten into the 2004 presidential election spirit by having artist Brian McCall create life-size papier-mache caricatures of a Texas-attired President Bush riding a steer, and Sen. John Kerry, clad in leather, racing a motorcycle.

“After the election in November, one of the candidates is coming down off the wall, dependent on the outcome of the election,” says restaurant owner Lisa Capobianco. “The ‘loser’ will be auctioned off at the restaurant, and the proceeds will be donated to the local branch of the Boys and Girls Club.”

Mrs. Capobianco’s husband, Ralph Capobianco, built King Street Blues around memories of childhood car trips and stopping at wonderful roadside restaurants along U.S. Route 1 — the kind that served hot bread, real mashed potatoes, homemade pies, and plenty of political discourse.

Roadhouse regulars include journalists, pundits and politicians, including former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr., who was national treasurer of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Coloring our world

If anybody cares to send Inside the Beltway a George W. Bush coloring book, we’d be delighted to color it.

In the meantime, pass the crayons, as we delve into “A Child’s-Eye View of John Kerry,” by Dougie’s Books of Upland, Calif.

Our favorite page shows Mr. Kerry standing next to his SUV, explaining that he doesn’t own the gas-guzzling vehicle, his family holds the title. But let’s start from the beginning.

“John Kerry has lots of big houses everywhere that his wife bought,” children read. “They go in their own jet and don’t have to sit next to some guy in a plane who smells and snores and drools when he sleeps.

“His wife also bought him lots of cars and trucks. He … says we should not use so much oil. But then they found out that he has a big gas guzzler SUV. A reporter asked him about that, and John Kerry had to think quick. He told the reporter that it wasn’t his SUV. It belonged to his family.

“At least the reporter didn’t get yelled at and told to shove it.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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