Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Democrat wins in Ky.

Former Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler yesterday won a special election for a seat in Congress.

Mr. Chandler defeated Republican state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr in yesterday’s election to fill the 6th District House seat vacated by Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who defeated Mr. Chandler in the November gubernatorial election.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Chandler had 84,545 votes, or 55 percent. Mrs. Kerr had 65,774 votes, or 43 percent. A third-party candidate trailed. Turnout among the district’s 441,931 registered voters was 34 percent.

In the nation’s first federal election of 2004, Mr. Chandler became the first Democrat since 1991 to win a Republican-held seat in a special election. The win leaves Republicans with a 228-205 majority in the House, with one vacancy and one Democrat-leaning independent.

Mr. Chandler presented himself as a fiscal conservative in a district that is 60 percent Democrat by voter registration but that tends to favor Republicans in federal elections. Mr. Bush carried the state over Al Gore in 2000.

Mr. Chandler enjoyed an advantage in name recognition because of his 12 years in state government — four as auditor, eight as attorney general — and because his grandfather, A.B. “Happy” Chandler, was twice elected governor, served in the U.S. Senate and was commissioner of big-league baseball.

Kerry’s task

“If you talk to Democratic foreign-policy elites in Washington and New York, you come away convinced that the party has recovered from Vietnam, and is ready to assert power, albeit in multilateral guises,” New York Times columnist David Brooks writes.

“If, on the other hand, you attend Democratic primary rallies, you come away convinced that the party is still, at its base, the Jimmy Carter party when it comes to global affairs,” Mr. Brooks said.

“And if you listen to John Kerry, you come away not knowing what to think. He seems like a man betwixt and between, unable to issue a clear statement about America’s role in the world, and hence floating toward whatever is expedient at the moment.

“If Kerry can speak the language of Truman and Kennedy, and stick with it, he will cross a basic threshold, and Americans will consider trusting him with their security. If he does not cross that threshold, all the personal heroism in the world will not be enough to get him elected.”

The sophisticates

“The misunderestimators are back, dripping with their old familiar condescension and contempt for President Bush,” New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.

“Liberals who were forced by bitter circumstance over the past two-plus years to face the truth about the very formidable George W. Bush are now retreating into their old comfortable ways,” Mr. Podhoretz said.

“It’s been a cruel month for Bush: the hit job by his (deservedly) fired former Treasury secretary; weapons inspector David Kay’s confusing testimony on his findings about the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein; the repulsive feeding frenzy over his honorable National Guard service three decades ago.

“But the Left ought to temper its glee: Bush has basically suffered through a single unfavorable month in the polls in the course of a tenure now 36 months long….

“No matter. The misunderestimators are thrilled by Bush’s troubles because they no longer have to struggle with the cognitive dissonance that has troubled them from the start of his presidency.

“Throughout his days of glory in 2001 and 2002, they remained convinced he was a moron, but they could see he was doing what needed to be done in the wake of 9/11. Now you can practically hear them breathe sighs of relief: Once again, they can claim openly that they’re just so much smarter than the president, you see. And wiser. Not to mention more sophisticated.”

Sidney’s back

What has top Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal been up to lately?

Well, last year the former Washington Post reporter published a memoir of his White House years. And now, Mr. Blumenthal has written the introduction for a book of “extremist quotations” from conservatives.

The book, by Bruce J. Miller with Diana Maio, is called “Take Them at Their Words: Shocking, Amusing and Baffling Quotations from the G.O.P. and Their Friends 1994-2004.”

The book shows how Republicans urge violence against Democrats, says Mr. Miller, who works for public radio in Chicago.

“Many of these quotes are startling, some are amusing or simply incomprehensible and, most shocking of all, too many of them advocate violence against Democrats and other perceived enemies of the Republicans and their friends,” Mr. Miller said in a press release.

Dean’s records

A judge ruled yesterday that neither former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean nor the secretary of state had authority to agree to a blanket seal covering 145 boxes of records from his 11 years as governor.

Superior Court Judge Alan W. Cook said Mr. Dean and the state must identify the roughly 600,000 sealed documents and describe why each is protected by executive privilege. An appeal of the ruling to the state Supreme Court is likely, the Associated Press reports.

“Howard Dean is now getting a lesson in government openness,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which last fall filed the suit seeking to open the papers.

Popularity contest

Ever since France and Germany condemned the United States for “unilateral” action to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, elites in the United States have been wringing their hands over what the rest of the world thinks of America.

The latest Gallup Poll turns the tables, asking Americans what they think of France, Germany and Great Britain, the latter being one of America’s staunchest allies in the war in Iraq. Turns out Americans are pretty generous about it all, with 69 percent approving of Germany and only 26 percent with an unfavorable view.

France is another story. Gallup found that of 1,001 Americans older than 18 surveyed, a plurality of 49 percent hold a negative opinion of France, while 47 percent have a favorable view.

Not surprisingly, the Brits come out the best, with an 87 percent to 10 percent favorable-unfavorable rating among Americans.

Clinton and Clark

Bill Clinton denies that he is touting retired Gen. Wesley Clark as the best vice presidential choice for John Kerry.

The New York Post’s Fredric U. Dicker reported Monday that the former president was embarrassed by Mr. Clark’s performance as a presidential candidate, but nevertheless was calling Democratic power brokers last week to press Mr. Kerry to tap the retired general as his running mate.

That story brought an immediate denial from Mr. Clinton. “I have not taken sides with regard to any of the candidates for president,” Mr. Clinton told the reporter. “I like Wes Clark, but it would be disloyal of me to favor any individual when so many have been helpful to me.”

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

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