Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Divided Democrats

Even as Democrats proclaim that they are united in their determination to defeat President Bush, the primary results show that they have yet to unite fully behind presumptive nominee Sen. John Kerry.

Mr. Kerry of Massachusetts won just 73 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania’s primary Tuesday, six weeks after he sewed up the nomination by winning Illinois’ primary. One-time rival Howard Dean collected 10 percent of the vote, as did Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the only other candidate still actively seeking votes, won 4 percent.

Mr. Kucinich also held Mr. Kerry to 62 percent of the vote in the Alaska caucuses on March 20, and Mr. Kerry won just 64 percent in Colorado’s April 13 caucuses. And even though he long since had dropped out, Mr. Edwards won his home state’s caucuses on April 17, holding Mr. Kerry to 33 percent.

With the exception of North Carolina, the figures are in line with what Republican nominee Bob Dole received in the weeks after he had sewn up his party’s nomination in 1996, and slightly worse than Al Gore and George W. Bush fared after sewing up their nominations in 2000.

Democrats have been shaking their heads in wonder lately that Mr. Kerry has allowed Republicans to outflank him even on the issue of his highly decorated service in Vietnam.

Yesterday, a columnist for the Village Voice called for Democrats to dump Mr. Kerry as the nominee.

“With growing issues over his wealth (which makes fellow plutocrat Bush seem a charity case by comparison), the miasma over his medals and ribbons (or ribbons and medals), his uninspiring record in the Senate (yes war, no war), and wishy-washy efforts to mimic Bill Clinton’s triangulation gimmickry (the protractor factor), Kerry sinks day by day,” James Ridgeway wrote.

Ethics complaint

The conservative Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) filed a formal ethics complaint yesterday against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and two former aides.

The complaint stems from an internal memo one of the aides wrote to Mr. Kennedy that says the senator conspired to stall a nominee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals until after that panel had decided a landmark affirmative-action case.

The complaint names former staffers Olati Johnson and Melody Barnes. In addition to writing the April 17, 2002, memo spelling out the plan to stall the nomination, Ms. Johnson previously had worked as a lawyer on the case in favor of University of Michigan’s racial-preferences program.

“On their face, these facts alone evidence unethical behavior and improper conduct reflecting on the U.S. Senate, based upon the unethical actions of both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Barnes,” CFIF Executive Director Jeffrey Mazzella wrote in the complaint. “After all, these facts demonstrate that Ms. Johnson and Ms. Barnes abused their positions on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee in an attempt to manipulate the consideration and outcome of a pending case.

“Just as Ms. Johnson and Ms. Barnes would be guilty of improper behavior if they conspired to bribe a juror or have improper ex parte contact with a judge in order to influence a pending legal case, they acted improperly in seeking to abuse the judicial-confirmation process to achieve the same ends — manipulating a court and influencing the outcome of a case.”

McDermott’s regret

A spokesman for Rep. Jim McDermott said yesterday that the Washington Democrat thinks he made a mistake in omitting the words “under God” as he led the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday.

Mike DeCesare said Mr. McDermott told him that as a child he had learned the Pledge without the phrase “under God.” The phrase was added in 1954.

“Basically, he caught himself up,” Mr. DeCesare said, adding that Mr. McDermott had been unsure whether to include the phrase while the 2002 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

“Today he says, ‘I should have said it,’ because the Pledge has been amended, and in the future, he will do that,” Mr. DeCesare said. “Basically, it was the wrong time to have a question in your thoughts.”

Mr. McDermott of Seattle was one of seven lawmakers who voted against a House resolution last year condemning a federal appeals court ruling that reciting the Pledge in public schools is unconstitutional because of its reference to God.

Playing ‘Softball’

Maybe it should be called “Softball.”

Chris Matthews hosted Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on his MSNBC program “Hardball” this week and laid bare his party allegiances.

After complaining to Mr. Kerry that outsourcing of telephone customer-service jobs required him to get help installing his car radio from a guy in Bangalore with “an Indian accent,” Mr. Matthews asked the following series of questions without stopping for an answer.

“Do you think this administration and its political handlers like Karl Rove are capable of recognizing they can’t beat you on the jobs issue? They can’t beat you on foreign policy? They’re going to drop this nonsensical stuff. Don Evans, secretary of commerce and the president’s good friend, said you looked French the other day. Are they going after [wife] Teresa because she was born in Mozambique? Are they going to try to build the idea that you’re like Mike Dukakis? Or you’re like Al Gore? A little different than most people? You know what they did the last couple times. Are they going to try to do that?”

Mr. Kerry smiled gratefully and said, “Anything’s possible with this crowd.”

Gore’s donations

Al Gore, drawing from his 2000 campaign accounts, said yesterday that he will donate more than $6 million to five Democratic Party groups and help Sen. John Kerry fight President Bush’s “outrageous and misleading” re-election bid.

The former vice president pledged to donate $4 million to the Democratic National Committee. The party’s Senate and House committees each will get $1 million, and the party from Mr. Gore’s home state of Tennessee will receive $250,000.

The Democratic Party in Florida, site of the divisive 2000 election recount, will get $240,000 from a separate Gore campaign account. Republican campaign committees still hold a fund-raising advantage over Democrats, the Associated Press reports.

Smith’s favorite

Former Sen. Bob Smith, who until recently was a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Florida, yesterday endorsed former Rep. Bill McCollum for the Republican nomination.

“During all of my years in Congress, I never met a more honest, hard-working and dedicated individual than Bill McCollum,” said Mr. Smith, who moved to Florida after losing the Republican Senate nomination in New Hampshire in 2002, despite being the incumbent.

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

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