- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

In the race

Comedian Al Franken has decided to run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008, challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, a senior Democratic official told the Associated Press.

The official, who requested anonymity because Mr. Franken has not made an announcement, said the comedian and former star of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” told her of his decision recently, AP reports.

Andy Barr, the political director of Mr. Franken’s Midwest Values Political Action Committee, declined to comment.

Mr. Franken has been calling members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to get their input on a run, and he announced this week that he would leave his show on Air America Radio on Feb. 14. He told listeners that he would make a decision on the race soon.

A blank screen

Barack Obama’s book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ is well into its fourth month on the bestseller list, and even a professional sourpuss (not that I know any) can see why,” Andrew Ferguson writes at www.bloomberg.com.

” ‘I am new enough on the national political scene,’ he writes in the book’s prologue, ‘to serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.’

“Never mind the mixed metaphor about striped people projecting on screens (a rare infelicity from such a graceful writer). The statement is the purest Obama, the kind of sentiment that people seldom get from a career politician: knowing, self-aware, candid, vivid in its expression and — most amazing of all — true.

” ‘The Audacity of Hope,’ in fact, can best be understood as an extended effort on the part of the first-term Illinois senator to keep that screen as blank as possible,” Mr. Ferguson said.

“He’s been so successful that already some of his would-be supporters are expressing frustration at their inability to pin Obama down on their favorite causes. The journalist Joe Klein wrote in Time magazine that he ‘counted no fewer than fifty instances of excruciatingly judicious on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-handedness’ in ‘The Audacity of Hope.’

“Klein has a point: There are times reading Obama’s book when you wonder whether he’s capable of making a statement unadorned by caveats, hedges, qualifications and rhetorical switchbacks. He devotes a chapter to ‘values,’ for example. He’s strongly in favor of them, with reservations.

“It turns out he’s all for ‘self-reliance and independence,’ unless these qualities ‘transform into selfishness and license.’

“He’s totally pro-patriotism, except when it ‘slides into jingoism.’ And religious faith? He’s all for that, too — just don’t let it ‘calcify into self-righteousness.’

“Are we clear now?”

Try, try again

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said yesterday that he would propose abandoning touch-screen voting machines adopted after the disputed 2000 presidential race and replacing them with devices that provide a paper record.

In response to intense criticism over the 2000 race — when a recount dispute focusing on Florida’s “hanging chads” and inscrutable ballots was resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court — election supervisors in 15 counties spent millions on touch-screen technology, which itself has come under fire.

The machines allow voters to cast their ballots by touching a video screen. But they provide no paper backup, a safety feature that critics say would help guard against fraud and bolster voter confidence.

Mr. Crist, a Republican, told a group of newspaper editors that he would ask the state legislature for $20 million to switch to machines with a paper backup, Reuters news agency reports.

Ensuring the integrity of elections is the cornerstone of any democracy, he said.

Under Mr. Crist’s plan, money would be used to purchase optical-scanning machines that require voters to fill out paper ballots, which are then recorded. Mr. Crist said he plans to provide more details today as he rolls out his 2007 budget requests over the next few days.

Media hype

“The broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday, especially NBC and ABC, jumped to hype a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing meant to publicize a report from two far-left groups about how the Bush administration supposedly suppressed science about the dire threat of global warming — as if that view isn’t already getting plenty of play in the mainstream media,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

” ‘The question in Washington today was this,’ anchor Brian Williams intoned in leading the NBC Nightly News: ‘Did the Bush administration in any way try to cook the books on the topic of global warming? Government scientists were called before a congressional committee today and asked if the White House or anyone else ever tried to stifle or squelch or silence the evidence that climate change is taking place around the globe.’

Andrea Mitchell refused to properly label the groups as she trumpeted: ‘With Democrats holding the gavel in both houses, advocacy groups were given the chance to present a new study revealing unprecedented and widespread interference with scientific reports, largely by a former oil industry lobbyist working for the White House.’ ”

Not a party

Miami city leaders said yesterday that their plans to open the Orange Bowl when ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro dies was not for the sake of a party, but simply a form of peacekeeping, comparing it to preparations for a hurricane.

According to the Associated Press, city officials said the football stadium will be a safe place for the Cuban-exile community to gather peacefully and can accommodate overflow crowds in the event of Mr. Castro’s death.

“The same way we plan for a hurricane, we have to plan for an event such as this,” said Peter Hernandez, Miami city manager.

News reports that Miami was planning an official celebration of Mr. Castro’s death drew international attention and the anger of some Cuban-Americans, who said rejoicing over anyone’s death was in bad taste.

Lawmaker censured

The South Dakota Senate yesterday censured a lawmaker accused of fondling an 18-year-old male page in a motel bed.

Democratic Sen. Dan Sutton admitted sharing a bed with the page last winter but denied groping him.

The censure has no official effect on Mr. Sutton’s powers, the Associated Press reports.

The Senate could have expelled him.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected].

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