UPI's Capital Comment for Jan. 3, 2002

By United Press International  |  Jan. 3, 2002 at 4:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- News notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

What's in a name? -- When The Washington Post labeled conservative, politically active Christians as "poor, uneducated and easy to command," the accusation of bigotry and cries of outrage could be heard from coast to coast.

It's happening again, but this time the offending news organ is the venerable New York Times.

In a front-page story last Thursday, foreign correspondent Douglas Jehl called the Islamic radicals who threaten the Saudi royal house "the religious right" -- American media shorthand for politically conservative Christians who tend to affiliate with the Republican Party.

No word yet as to whether any conservative leader is going to demand an apology, but Washington is buzzing about the choice of words -- especially after a memo from James Carville and other prominent Democrat strategists came to light suggesting that the subtle equation of Republican-aligned Christian conservatives and the radical groups in Afghanistan and elsewhere would help set the Democrats up nicely for the November 2002 elections.

Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map -- A district judge in New Mexico has tossed out a proposed congressional remap in favor of a plan that makes only slight changes to the existing lines. The courts were called in when the Democrat-controlled Legislature and GOP Gov. Gary Johnson could not agree on a plan.

Republicans breathed a sigh of relief at the news, believing this stops an effort by the Democrats to oust Republican Rep. Heather Wilson from her seat through gerrymandering.

New Mexico Democrats are considering whether to appeal the decision.

Come on and take a free ride -- With the control of the U.S. Senate hanging by a thread, some people think it is surprising that seven senators up for re-election next year have not yet drawn an opponent.

However, when that list -- Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Ted Stevens of Alaska and John Warner of Virginia and Democrats Jack Reed of Rhode Island and John Kerry of Massachusetts -- is examined more closely, it makes sense.

Democrats are unlikely to beat any of the GOPers on that list, and 2002 is probably not the year for the Republicans to beat Reed or Kerry. And with real races in South Dakota, Montana, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota and elsewhere, it doesn't make much sense to put party resources into a race that cannot be won -- unless a self-funding candidate like Lois Coombs Weinberg in Kentucky can be talked into playing Don Quixote. In 2002, the Washington money is only going to places where it might make a difference.

An entirely different kind of legacy -- The Democrat Party solons who met with former President Bill Clinton to plan a way to establish and salvage his legacy can't be too pleased with former Clinton adviser Dick Morris after his column in Tuesday's New York Post.

After praising President George Bush for closing down charitable organizations with alleged ties to terrorist groups, Morris writes: "The information on which Bush largely relied to act against these charities was taped nine years ago, in 1993."

He goes on to say the FBI had collected "compelling evidence" but the Clinton administration did nothing -- in spite of internal advice to act.

"At a White House strategy meeting on April 27, 1995 -- two weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing -- the president was urged to create a 'President's List' of extremist/terrorist groups, their members and donors to warn the public against well-intentioned donations which might foster terrorism," Morris writes.

But no action was taken because Clinton feared the politics of such a move could be damaging, says Morris.


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