UPI's Capital Comment for April 26, 2002

By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst  |  April 26, 2002 at 9:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 26 (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.

Getting in their two cents -- More than one Republican on Capitol Hill is up in arms over the Democrats new message card as discussed in Thursday's Capital Comment. The House Republican Conference is accusing their across-the-aisle brethren of having "tried to adopt the House Republican Conference's slogan, which has been the official name of the Conference's communication strategy since 1999."

"I am glad to see Democrats are finally looking forward to 'securing America's future.' But the concept is more than a jingle -- it's an agenda," Conference Chairman J.C. Watts, Jr., R-Okla., said. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But I'd rather Democrats imitate our votes, not just our slogans," he added.

In order to secure the rights to their slogan, Watts is contemplating a suggestion that the conference's letterhead should be changed to read: Securing America's Future ©. "In the meantime, I welcome the newfound interest by Democrat leaders in the GOP effort to provide a better future to all Americans," Watts said.

Going on offense -- A new strategy memo from The Democracy Corps, a group founded by Democrat strategists James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum, is calling on Democrats to "attack the Republicans very hard for the damage they are doing to Social Security that will block future solutions and for promising prescription drug coverage, but offering a meager caricature of it. We should attack the rollback of environmental protections and the billions of retroactive corporate tax breaks, including hundreds of millions for Enron. Both of these actions reflect the Republicans' unstinting commitments to its corporate donors at the expense of the public. And we should attack the reckless budgets that will ring red ink for a decade and threaten to bankrupt our most important programs."

The group advocates an agenda centered on "securing Social Security for the future and providing a prescription drug benefit for seniors. We are focused on a broad range of initiatives to address rising health care costs and to empower patients rather than HMOs. And Democrats want to cut taxes for the middle class."

Outreach -- In a move that will have partisans on both sides scratching their heads, Sen. Zell Miller, the conservative Democrat from Georgia, is scheduled to give the keynote address to the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association. It is the first time in ten years that a member of Miller's party has been accorded the honor. Insiders say that Miller, who is still fuming over the way his Senate colleagues 'dissed' federal judicial nominee Judge Charles Pickering in the spring, is on a personal mission to make sure that rural, white conservative and moderate democrats know that the party has not been completely hijacked by northern and urban liberals. The general consensus is, however, that it will be a tough sell.

Applause, applause -- House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., a potential 2004 presidential candidate, is applauding the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, "which will help ensure basic workplace fairness for employees regardless of their sexual orientation."

According to critics, ENDA, as it is known in Washington political shorthand, would force employers -- even those in education and child care-- to set aside any concerns or objections they may have toward homosexuality when making employment decisions. Gephardt's out-front endorsement of the committee's action, along with his call for the companion bill to be brought up in the House, is being taken as one more sign that a presidential run is in the offing.

Tuning in and up -- The Cato Institute, Washington's leading libertarian think tank, is hosting a luncheon briefing on the subject of the transition to high-density television or HDTV. Participating on the May 1 panel are Manhattan Institute Economist Thomas Hazlett; David Donovan of the Association for Maximum Service Television; Rick Chessen of the Federal Communications Commission; The New America Foundation's Michael Calabrese; and Richard Wiley of the law firm of Wiley, Rein and Fielding. The date is significant because, according to the timetable established by federal regulators several years ago, May 1, 2002 is the date on which commercial television stations are supposed to be transmitting the HDTV signal to American households. The bet now is that most of them won't make it.

Poking through the ruble -- Both parties and both chambers are reportedly close to an agreement on how to handle a landmark investigation into how the U.S. intelligence community failed to prevent the Sept. 11 tragedies. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairmen of their respective intelligence committees, are close to a pact on the timing and focus of the investigation and the issue of press access. Sources close to the talks say the two lawmakers are not interested in a "head hunt."

Teen terror -- In what is being billed as the state's first-ever teen summit on terrorism, nearly 200 high school students throughout Connecticut are converging on Stamford Friday for an interactive, town hall-style summit meeting moderated by CNN's Paula Zahn. Items on the agenda include a discussion with five young people directly affected by the attacks of Sept. 11 and other acts of terrorism and a discussion with national and international experts on terrorism and national security.

At the conclusion of the event, participants will be asked to sign a "Declaration of Commitment" to initiate future dialogue on the issue of terrorism so understanding and positive deeds can create hope out of tragedy.

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