UPI's Capital Comment for October 4, 2001

By United Press International  |  Oct. 4, 2001 at 2:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- United Press International's roundup of notable news, hot gossip and important events shaping politics and public policy in Washington and the world.

Apples and oranges? -- In an interview in the latest issue of The New Yorker, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., discusses the Sept. 11 terror attacks that stunned the nation. The former first lady claims the victim mantle for herself, saying she too had come face-to-face with what interviewer Nicholas Lemann called "murderous anger." The former first lady recounts for Lemann her experiences as head of the task force looking for ways to change America's health care system. "I remember being in Seattle ... Radio talk-show hosts had urged their listeners to come out and yell and scream and carry on and prevent people from hearing me speak. There were threats coming, and certain people didn't want me to speak, and they started taking weapons off people ... I've had firsthand looks at this unreasoning anger and hatred..." Probably to Clinton's surprise, there are those who have suggested that a great, chasmous gap exists between being shouted down at a speech and flying a civilian airliner into two of the world's tallest buildings, causing them both to collapse -- but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

It's High Noon for 5 Texas Democrats -- A ruling by a Texas state judge will likely end the congressional career of Democrat Rep. Ken Bentsen and make re-election prospects for fellow Dems Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, Charlie Stenholm and Jim Turner very grim, according to reports coming out of the state Thursday. Under a congressional redistricting plan released Wednesday by state District Judge Paul Davis of Austin, Republicans could win as many as 20 of the state's 32 congressional seats in next year's election. Democrats currently have a 17-13 majority in the existing 30 districts. Texas gained two seats because of growth recorded in last year's census. Davis' map will become the first official Texas congressional redistricting plan when he issues a final order next week.

Out -- Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, follows the lead of Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, and announces he will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Phil Gramm. The likely nominee for Republicans is state Attorney General John Cornyn, while Democrats look to be putting forward Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

In -- Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff in the Clinton White House, has reportedly reversed a previous decision and will in fact be a candidate for the Democrat nomination for Jesse Helm's open Republican U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina. Bowles will face Democrat Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in the primary.

It's a good thing family members sometimes don't all get along -- It appears as though the family of international fugitive and terrorist Osama bin Laden may profit from the Sept. 11 attacks. The bin Laden family are major shareholders in a company called Iridium -- until now a less than spectacular investment. Originally conceived as a personal satellite telephone network, Iridium has 66 satellites in orbit that reportedly cost the company $1 billion dollars and, until now, have been practically useless. Now Iridium is pitching the National Transportation Safety Board to replace black boxes in commercial aircraft with a system using Iridium-owned technology and equipment. The black boxes from some of the hijacked planes have not yet been recovered and some investigators fear vital information and clues may be damaged or lost. Iridium says its satellite system can stay in constant contact with aircraft, anywhere in the world, and continually transmit flight data and even voices in the cockpit back to the ground. The chairman of Iridium has told the federal government that hardware could be shipped to airliners in as little as 120 days. The NTSB is considering the system as part of its commitment to upgrading commercial airline safety.

All in the family -- Linda Sanchez, sister of U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., said Wednesday that she is running for a congressional seat created under California's redistricting plan. If both women were elected next November, the two Democrats would be the first sisters to serve simultaneously in the House of Representatives and the last pair of siblings to serve in the House since Republicans Dan and Phil Crane.

The times, they are a changin' -- On Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes appointed state Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus as the first black to be chairman of the state's Democratic Party. This transforms Smyre from a quiet, behind-the-scenes force to one of the most powerful black figures in Georgia politics. The 26-year legislator provided a major assist to the governor in his initiative to change the state flag last winter. Smyre will be an interesting counter-point to Ralph Reed, the eternally boyish looking political consultant who now leads the state's Republican Party.

Flip, flop -- Was the U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who earlier in the week he announced would introduce legislation in congress on Wednesday to force the reopening of Reagan Washington National Airport, the same Rep. Jim Moran who flogged congressional Republicans earlier in the year for trying to force the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to change the name of the airport's train stop from "National Airport" to "Reagan National Airport" because it was an unwarranted federal intrusion in local affairs? Just wondering...

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