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UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 28, 2003

Feb. 28, 2003 at 1:59 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Contradiction in terms...

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., weighed in Tuesday against the nomination of Miguel Estrada to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. No stranger to Washington controversy herself, Mrs. Clinton made her pitch against Estrada, saying the nominee had not told the Senate enough about what he believed on a number of politically sensitive issues -- even though, for federal judicial nominees, that has been standard practice for many, many years.

Mrs. Clinton is also upset that the White House will not order the Justice Department to turn over memos Estrada wrote while working in the Solicitor General's office during the first Bush and Clinton administrations. All the living former Solicitors General said this request is beyond the pale but the senators mounting the filibuster nevertheless persist in making this an issue.

In her floor statement, Mrs. Clinton emphasized the request, made in a letter from Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"I will reiterate the request," she said. "Specifically, they asked the president to instruct the Department of Justice to accommodate the request for documents immediately so that the hearing process can be completed and the Senate can have a more complete record on which to consider this nomination... "

This, of course, is giving Republicans on Capitol Hill who are veterans of the Clinton presidential-era quite a chuckle. The Clinton White House repeatedly fought with the Congress over whether they would turn over requested documents. Some Republicans are also reminding anyone who will listen about Mrs. Clinton's Rose Law Firm billing records, which went missing until they mysteriously appeared inside the White House private quarters long after they were requested. Sen. Clinton's office did not respond to a request for comment on this apparent contradiction, or maybe it's just a change of heart.

A California dream...

California Republicans are wondering if their eventual salvation lies in Washington. In 2002, the GOP lost every statewide race to the Democrats, leaving the party at an all time low as it comes out of its recent state convention under the leadership of new chairman Duf Sundheim. Party donors and leaders are split as to the wisdom of the ongoing effort to recall Democrat Gov. Gray Davis. Some believe the potential success is worth the risk while others say the smart move is to put the party's resources into carrying the state for George W. Bush and defeating Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2004.

Looking beyond the next election to 2006, when Davis cannot run again, the news that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice may be considering a run for the state's top office has some Republicans very excited.

Rice, the first black woman to serve as national security adviser, is the former provost of California's Stanford University who polls very well with voters in state opinion polls. According to a story in the Feb. 27 San Francisco Chronicle, Rice "has 'talked specifically' to high level GOP insiders about the possibility of running" for governor in 2006. The story by Carla Marinucci cites an unidentified Republican insider who says, "She said no to the (2004) Senate race but is very much more open to '06."

Graham off and running...

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida has filed the papers necessary to form a presidential campaign committee. According to an aide, Graham will become the ninth Democrat bidding for his party's 2004 presidential nomination. The three-term Florida senator has bypassed the usual step of forming an exploratory committee, moving ahead under the banner of an official campaign committee, which allows for greater flexibility in fundraising and spending.

The decision to run for president means the senator will likely not seek re-election to a fourth term. "He is committed to running for president, winning the Democratic nomination and then the White House," Graham spokesman Paul Anderson told UPI. Under Florida law, Graham cannot seek re-election to the Senate if he is also part of the national ticket, unlike in some states where a two-track federal campaign is permitted under some circumstances.

The cost of war...

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a leader of the congressional opposition to a U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein, is attacking the Bush administration over the potential cost of the war. On Wednesday, Kucinich predicted the war would "have a devastating effect on our nation's economic security." Criticizing what he called the administration's repeated failure to prove that Iraq posed a legitimate threat to the United States, Kucinich said "it is very clear that the price tag for a preemptive attack and occupation of Iraq will send out teetering economy into a tailspin."

Some news organizations have advanced the idea that the Bush administration will request $95 billion in supplemental funds to pay for the war though, as UPI's Kathy Gambrell and Pam Hess reported Wednesday, the Pentagon says that number is too high.

And the award goes to...

At a ceremony Thursday inside the White House, eight individuals and organizations received the National Humanities Medal for the year 2002.

Those awarded the medal include: Dr. Thomas Sowell, author, columnist and the Rose and Milton Friedman fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution; Yale University Professor of classics and history Donald Kagan; C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb; television personality Art Linkletter, who is now chairman of the United Seniors Association; Author Patricia Maclachlan; and Frankie Hewitt, the producing artistic director of Washington's Ford's Theater.

Also receiving medals are the University of Iowa's Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, which oversees the maintenance of President George Washington's home. First lady Laura Bush serves as the honorary chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

(Got an item for Capital Comment? E-mail it to CapComm@UPI.com.)

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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