UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 1, 2001

By United Press International  |  Oct. 1, 2001 at 6:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- United Press International's daily roundup of notable news, hot gossip and important events shaping politics and public policy in Washington and the world.

Wishful thinking, not! -- The Rev. Al Sharpton, self-appointed leader of Manhattan's black community, jealously guards his place in the media spotlight. He cannot be too happy with the accolades being thrown towards Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attack on the city. In fact, the bitterness may be starting to show. Speaking about the way the city has pulled together, something many credit to Giuliani's leadership, Sharpton said, "We would have come together if Bozo was the mayor."

Out -- Pennsylvania Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker, who assumes the state's top job when Gov. Tom Ridge resigns later this month, has once again definitively taken himself out of next year's race for a full term. Schweiker was not a candidate to succeed Ridge, leaving the GOP field divided between Attorney General Mike Fisher and State Treasurer Barbara Hafer, who disagree on just about everything. Hafer had been one of those urging Schweiker to join the race, which might have worked to her overall advantage, as the two men would have been competing for the same voters. This would have left Hafer free to run up superior numbers among more liberal Pennsylvania GOPers. No word yet on Schweiker's next move, although rumor has it he is under consideration for the top job at Philadelphia's Convention Center.

Congress is "in" -- The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have altered the possible course of some careers on Capitol Hill. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., has announced that he will seek re-election in 2002, in part because of the attacks. Thompson was believed to be leaning against a race for a second full term. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., last week said he would seek re-election -- as opposed to running for governor -- because the crisis following the terrorist attacks requires "all hands on deck." It is believed that several other members of Congress who are thinking about a run for statewide office may follow suit.

And you thought the World Wrestling Federation was tough... -- With the new Georgia congressional lines apparently set, the buzz in Atlanta is that Rep. Bob Barr, darling of conservatives across the country, may move into the same district with Rep. John Linder, former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. This would set up a whale of a primary fight. There are many who hope that Linder, who is a prodigious fundraiser with good contacts in the Georgia business community, would then answer the call of the party and run against first-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Max Cleland rather than seek re-election to the House. Cleland, whose poll numbers look bleak, won in a squeaker against multi-millionaire Guy Milner in 1996 while Bob Dole was dragging down Republicans all over the country.

Flaps up -- Some Republicans in Congress are arguing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks increased the need for Congress to quickly pass some components of George W. Bush's domestic agenda -- including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and giving the president trade promotion authority. Democrats have complained that Republicans are trying to wrap their agenda in the American flag. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and a group of his Republican colleagues said last week that the attacks proved that America should try to ease its dependence on foreign oil. "We suffered a terrible attack," DeLay said at a press conference attended by fellow Republicans. "We need energy security now. One important step would be opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., warned he would not approve of a "one-sided" energy bill.

In another flap that takes the "bi" out of bipartisan, House Ways and Means ranking Democrat Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., charged that United States Trade Representative Bob Zoellick was using the attacks to help him move controversial trade promotion authority legislation. "As a combat war veteran and as a person whose city has been attacked and suffered devastating losses as a result, I am offended by the strategy of the current United States Trade Representative to use the tragedy in New York and at the Pentagon to fuel political momentum behind a partisan 'Fast Track' proposal," Rangel said.

"Congress now needs to send an unmistakable signal to the world that the United States is committed to global leadership," Zoellick wrote in a recent special for The Washington Post. "Congress needs to enact U.S. trade promotion authority."

Letter perfect -- The conservative Free Congress Foundation is organizing a letter in opposition to Sen. John Kerry's International Counter-Money Laundering and Foreign Anticorruption Act of 2001 and Sen. Carl Levin's Money Laundering Abatement Act. Both bills, the letter says, "create protectionist barriers and regulatory burdens that threaten political and financial ties with many nations. These jurisdictions, needless to say, will have little incentive to help our nation track down criminals and their illicit proceeds. To add insult to injury, both bills will drive capital out of the U.S. economy at a time when our economy is in need of more investment."

Riding high -- A new EPIC/MRA poll of Arab-Americans residing in Detroit conducted between Sept. 25 and 27 for the Detroit Free Press shows that 76 percent of them rate the president's job approval as good or excellent. And 80 percent of the 527 respondents said the same about the president's handling of the response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

Fight, fight, fight -- As one of its first items of business in its new term, which began on Monday, the Supreme Court announced that former President William Jefferson Clinton had been suspended from the elite clique of attorneys who are permitted to argue cases before the highest court in the land. The former president has 40 days to inform the court why this disbarment should not be permanent. Clinton attorney David Kendall says the president "intends to show cause" why the disbarment should not stand. As part of the agreement he made in the closing days of his administration with the Office of the Independent Counsel, the president agreed to paying a $25,000 fine and to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license. The former president never argued a case before the court, as is true for many members of the Supreme Court bar, but possessing the right to do so is consider a high honor in some legal circles. Clinton was one of 18 lawyers to get the boot from the justices on Monday.

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