Monday, September 8, 2003

Manners, manners

Arianna Huffington said yesterday she was “very surprised” that California Gov. Gray Davis mocked Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pronunciation of the word “California” during a campaign stop.

“You can’t be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state,” Mr. Davis said Saturday.

Mrs. Huffington and Mr. Schwarzenegger were born in Greece and Austria, respectively. Both are running against Mr. Davis, a Democrat, in the California recall election Oct. 7.

“This isn’t just about Arnold. This isn’t just about me,” Mrs. Huffington said by phone yesterday. “This is about the 9 million other people in California who also weren’t born here. Frankly, I was very surprised at that remark.”

She describes herself as “a former right-winger who has evolved into a compassionate and progressive populist.”

California Republican Vice Chairman Mario Rodriguez, meanwhile, has demanded an apology for the “ethnic slur,” which Mr. Davis now says was a harmless quip.

“It is preposterous,” said Mrs. Huffington, “to suggest that non-native English speakers and those with accents are unqualified to lead our state.”

A new bloc

There is growing Jewish support for Republican candidates, according to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which bases its conclusions on newly released data from the November 2002 midterm elections.

“This data simply confirms what we have been saying all along,” said spokesman Matthew Brooks yesterday. “Jewish voters are increasing their support for the Republican Party. Like other minorities, they resent being taken for granted and ignored by the Democrats.”

Between 2000 and 2002, the number of Jews voting Republican increased to 35 percent from the 21 percent to 26 percent of Jews who voted for Republicans during previous midterm elections, according to exit polls conducted by Voter News Service.

More voters also identified themselves as Republican and fewer as independent than in 1994 and 1998. Women leaned more Republican than usual, and twice as many respondents said their House vote was meant to support President Bush, not oppose him.

“We are seeing a major shift in American political party alliances,” Mr. Brooks said. “And we expect these realignment trends to continue.”

DNC etiquette

Organizers of last week’s Democratic presidential debate on the University of New Mexico campus overbooked the event by 1,500 tickets, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

“We sent enough invitations to make sure the seats were filled,” said Joe Velasquez, who was in charge of ticket distribution.

The party was counting on a fair amount of no-shows, however, and mailed out 3,500 invitations to the event, which was held in a 2,000-seat auditorium. When RSVPs were slow in coming, worried organizers made seats available to the public.

By showtime, they “found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to call some invitees and ask if they would relinquish their claims to tickets,” the Journal says.

Meanwhile, the nine candidates will debate again tonight at Morgan State University in Baltimore, airing live at 8 p.m. on Fox News Channel and hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus’ Political Education and Leadership Institute.

Strong schools

President Bush believes Tennessee is a showcase for his No Child Left Behind education initiative, signed 20 months ago.

During a brief stop at a Nashville elementary school, Mr. Bush said yesterday, “We have used this school as an example of what is possible for parents and for educators to make sure that not a single child gets left behind.”

Education leaders and governors must advertise to parents what is now available under the act, Mr. Bush said. The federal government will boost educational funding to $53.1 billion — a 26 percent increase since Mr. Bush took office.

“Other states must not fear measurement, but use the measuring tool as a way to determine who needs help. And the resources are there to provide that help. Other states must challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Mr. Bush said.

But Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, rebutted Mr. Bush’s statement.

“No amount of soothing rhetoric by the president can hide the fact that he refuses to fund the bipartisan school reforms he signed into law with great fanfare a year and a half ago,” he said. “Those reforms will never happen without increasing the funds needed to pay for them.”

O’Bannon suffers stroke

Indiana Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon was found unconscious in his hotel room yesterday morning and rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where he underwent surgery for a suspected cerebral hemorrhage.

Hospital officials said the 73-year-old governor suffered a stroke. He was in critical condition last night after surgery.

Elected to his second four-year term in 2000, Mr. O’Bannon is barred by term limits from running again next year. Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan also was in Chicago for the conference but returned to Indianapolis.

The Indiana Constitution allows for a transfer of power to the lieutenant governor if the governor is incapacitated. Mr. O’Bannon was elected to his father’s seat in the Indiana Senate in 1970 and served for 18 years.

‘Morning Grind’

The National Journal’s “Hotline” — the traditional daily must-read of political junkies — has some competition.

CNN’s new “Morning Grind” political column, a review of the day’s political stories and events, made its debut online yesterday under the guidance of CNN’s political editor, John Mercurio — a former reporter for The Washington Times and Roll Call.

The column originated as an internal political briefing for CNN staff, which grew legs once the news channel started e-mailing it to sundry political insiders a few months ago.

“We intend to tell people what we think is important in the world of politics and why they should care on a given day,” Mr. Mercurio said yesterday.

The column’s online address is The column will be available by 9 a.m. daily.

Curious Democrats

Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat, plans to urge President Bush to immediately release a classified report, “Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned,” to Congress.

The existence of the report, which concludes the postwar agenda for Iraq was poorly planned and implemented, first came to light in an article in The Washington Times by defense reporter Rowan Scarborough, published Thursday.

The report itself was compiled last month for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based on a series of interviews with senior U.S. military officials.

Mr. Wexler and 18 Democratic colleagues introduced a congressional resolution of inquiry requesting that Mr. Bush share the report with the House. The group will make their request in a press conference tomorrow.

• Contact Jennifer Harper at or 202/636-3085.

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