UPI's Capital Comment for April 16, 2002

By United Press International  |  April 16, 2002 at 10:32 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 16 (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.

No faith in the political process -- The Interfaith Alliance, a liberal group opposed to the influence of religious conservatives in the political process, has called on the Congress to reject two pieces of legislation currently working their way through the House of Representatives.

The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, H.R. 2357, and The Bright Line Act of 2001, H.R. 2931, are drawing fire from the alliance because they seek to eliminate from the IRS code prohibitions on church political activity enacted by President Johnson almost 40 years ago.

A recent poll conducted for the alliance by the Gallup Organization queried close to 300 clergymen about their attitudes on the subject of permissible and non-permissible political activities for houses of worship. According to the poll, 77 percent of those responding believe that clergy should not be involved in the endorsement of candidates in any fashion. The complete polling data can be found at the www.callforreform.org Web site

Armed and dangerous -- In an interview that aired Monday night, CNN's Larry King asked Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to comment on political problems that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may be having among "people on his right and people on his left."

Peres told King, "All of us have people on our left and people on our right, but they don't carry weapons. His problem is the right and the left are armed and everybody has a gun and a bomb. If this shall be continued, there won't be a Palestinian Authority ... For his own sake and for the destiny of the Palestinians, there must be a single authority over all rifles, all bombs, all people who are armed -- that they are taking the orders from a single source. Otherwise, there won't be any sense to negotiate. And that is a prior condition not for the sake of Israel, but rather for the sake of the Palestinians and their future."

Does David Letterman know about this? -- In a parody of talk show host David Letterman's signature bit, the New York State Democratic Party has begun dribbling out its top-10 list of reasons why Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y., should not be elected. Reason No. 9 is "Pataki actively campaigned to STOP the Florida presidential vote recount -- In November, 2000, Pataki boarded a private jet provided by the Bush campaign, leaving his job as chief executive of New York behind, and traveled to Florida where he campaigned to halt an accurate and orderly counting of the votes in the presidential election."

The strategy is potentially risky as performers are typically unhappy to see their creative products appropriated by political campaigns. An additional issue is that the "Top Ten List" bit has been the subject of legal wrangling before. When Letterman took his show to CBS, NBC tried to claim that a number of his regular features, including the list, belonged to them and not to the talk show host.

May of the year -- U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the principal mover behind the federal government's new Radio Afghanistan effort, was named the QuickReach Humanitarian of the Year by the Episcopal Service Alliance. Royce was recognized for his "outstanding contributions to humanity and the achievement of peace in Afghanistan." On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Royce toured the newly reopened Orphan Center in Kabul, visited with American troops who are helping restore peace in Afghanistan, and met with Afghanistan's interim President Hamid Karzai and other leaders in the region. QuickReach is a program of the ESA, a religiously affiliated, human-services agency providing short-term assistance to Orange County, Calif., families in crisis or transition.

Cheesed off -- The hot rumor making the rounds in GOP circles is that an effort is underway to get HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson into the race for governor of Wisconsin. Stories surfaced last week that a poll was being conducted in the state asking residents how they would feel if Thompson, who served as governor from 1986 until President Bush asked him to join the Cabinet, returned to Wisconsin to run for the top office. In his 1998 re-election, Thompson defeated football union official Ed Garvey by a 60 percent to 39 percent margin. Current Gov. Scott McCallum, who served as Thompson's lieutenant governor, has recently experienced the loss of three top staffers in his campaign to be elected to his own term this fall.

If Thompson does resign from the cabinet, look for retiring Michigan GOP Gov. John Engler to top the list of potential successors.

Another charge of bias in the media -- Usually it is the GOP that complains that their press coverage is unfair and biased toward the opposite point of view. In an unusual move, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., have written to the heads of CNN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel complaining about the way the three cable news channels are covering Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"We are writing to bring to your attention an issue that has become more pronounced in recent months: the lack of television coverage of press events featuring elected leaders of the Democratic Party," the letter begins.

Claiming "The statistics we have demonstrate this disparity," the two Democrats complain that administration officials were covered live on CNN while Democrats were only covered seven times over an approximately four-month period. The two men also say, "Anecdotal evidence indicates that Fox News and MSNBC coverage follows the same pattern."

They close by telling Fox's Roger Ailes, MSNBC's Erik Sorenson and CNN's Walter Isaacson that they "Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue." So do a lot of other people.

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