Monday, October 6, 2003

Who, us?

California Gov. Gray Davis and state Democratic Party officials deny that they had anything to do with the Los Angeles Times story late last week that Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger had groped a number of women over the past three decades.

But Maureen Dowd, the liberal New York Times columnist, says she was told some time ago that California Democrats were just biding their time before dropping that stink bomb on Mr. Schwarzenegger.

“When I was in California,” Miss Dowd wrote in her column yesterday, “Democrats said that as soon as Mr. Schwarzenegger went up in the polls, the Davis camp was prepared to blast him on women and ‘play it out in all its seamy glory,’ as one well-connected Hollywood Democrat said.”

Dobson’s decision

James C. Dobson says he may take a leave of absence as chairman of Focus on the Family in order to enter the political arena and campaign against same-sex “marriage.”

“Marriage is the ground floor, the foundation of our society … and yet it is on the ropes, in severe jeopardy” because “courts seem to be determined to redefine marriage and make it something it was never intended to be,” Mr. Dobson, 67, said at a news conference last week in which he and dozens of other conservative and religious groups announced a full-scale campaign in defense of traditional marriage.

“For 26 years, I have been the head of a nonprofit organization, Focus on the Family, which is, of course, limited in its ability to speak to political issues,” he said.

“That, for me, is changing. I have resigned as president of Focus on the Family. I am chairman of the board, but I’m prepared to take a leave of absence and be involved in those races where there is an obvious lack of understanding of the importance of [the homosexual ‘marriage] issue, wherever that takes me.”

Added Mr. Dobson: The marriage issue “may have to be fought out on the political level, and if so, let’s go for it.”

Keynote speaker

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s biggest annual fund-raiser next month, officials said Saturday.

When Mrs. Clinton’s husband, Bill, spoke at Sen. Tom Harkin’s steak fry last month, he drew a crowd of 8,000 people.

Mrs. Clinton’s strategists have carefully limited her appearance to a single event in the run-up to the Jan. 19 caucuses to avoid speculation about her intentions in the nominating process, the Associated Press reports.

She will speak at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day fund-raiser on Nov. 15.

In addition to $50 tickets at the door, the event features private fund-raisers where more serious donations are collected.

All of the party’s 10 contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have been invited to attend.

Clark’s accusation

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark on Saturday accused Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of wrongdoing in the 2000 election.

The retired general, speaking in El Dorado, Ark., “suggested that [President] Bush’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, influenced the recount in that state in the 2000 presidential election,” the Associated Press reported without further elaboration.

However, the wire service did quote Mr. Clark as saying: “I don’t put a lot of stock in these polls that have me leading President Bush 49 to 46 percent, but if things keep going this way, he’s going to need a brother in the 49 other states to win this election.”

Marriage woes

Rep. Cass Ballenger, North Carolina Republican, blames the breakup of his 50-year marriage partly on the stress of living near a leading American Muslim advocacy group that he and his wife worried was so close to the U.S. Capitol that “they could blow the place up.”

The nine-term lawmaker, in an interview with the Charlotte Observer published Saturday, called the Council on American-Islamic Relations — whose headquarters are across the street from his Capitol Hill home — a “fund-raising arm” for terrorist groups and said he reported CAIR to the FBI and CIA.

Mr. Ballenger, 76, told the Associated Press on Saturday that he had no problem with Muslims generally, but that he objected to what he believes are ties the group has with terrorists.

His wife, Donna, told the Associated Press the couple kept a close eye on CAIR after the terrorist attacks of Septemper 11, 2001, and worried that the group’s activities might jeopardize security on Capitol Hill.

The council on Saturday urged other Republicans to repudiate what it called Mr. Ballenger’s “bigoted” statements.

In addition to CAIR, he told the newspaper that another stress on the marriage was the 1995 decision by “holier-than-thou Republicans” in the House to ban gifts from lobbyists. The meals and theater tickets from lobbyists once meant “a social life for [congressional] wives,” Mr. Ballenger said.

CAIR, founded in 1994, has denied suggestions that it has ties to Middle Eastern groups linked to terrorist acts. It took out a full-page ad in the New York Times condemning the September 11 attacks and sponsored an interfaith “Day of National Unity” in Washington on the attack anniversaries.

Unlikely recipient

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who recently accused President Bush of perpetrating a fraud on the American people in regard to the prewar threat from Iraq, will receive the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

The award is named after George Herbert Walker Bush, the president’s father.

The award will be presented at a dinner ceremony Nov. 7 following a speech by Mr. Kennedy at Texas A&M University.

Former President Bush will present the award, which previously went to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the Associated Press reports.

Former President Bush has sole discretion on who receives the award, said Penrod Thornton of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

“Knowing President Bush, it was more about … contributions of the individuals and it didn’t have anything to do with politics,” Mr. Thornton told the Bryan-College Station Eagle for its Saturday editions.

Recipients of the Bush Award receive a crystal sculpture and a $20,000 cash prize.

Gore’s message

“Need more proof of why the Do Not Call Registry is sought by many?” Paul Bedard asks in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“We hear that 2000 loser Al Gore is helping embattled California Gov. Gray Davis fight the recall election by recording a pro-Davis message that’s being phoned into 1 million California homes — twice.”

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

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