WASHINGTON, April 30 (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.
Back in the saddle again -- The United States is once again a member of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. In last year's balloting, the United States finished out of the money in the contest for the four seats set aside for the West European group of nations. This year, the United States was elected to the body by acclamation -- along with Australia, Germany and Ireland -- although only those four countries stood for election.
Last year's failure to win re-election to the commission -- the first time since 1947 that it has not had a U.S. representative -- was played up by Democrats as an embarrassment for the new Bush administration, suggestive of incompetence and a reaction to what Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and others called a new isolationism on the part of the new president. With that in mind, some Republicans are predicting little if any attention to Monday's win.
A LePen and ink briefing -- The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, is holding a seminar on the lessons that can be drawn from the French elections thus far. The Thursday session, "Return of the Right? The French Elections and European Politics" will feature Brookings Vice President James B. Steinberg, former National Security Council staffers Philip H. Gordon and Ivo H. Daalder, and Washington Post columnist and Brookings fellow E.J. Dionne discussing whether the surprising showing of rightist Jean-Maire LePen in the first round of the French presidential elections is but the latest indication of far-right wing political parties gaining support from voters in other European countries.
It wasn't fun while it lasted -- The U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., is accusing the Sierra Club, an environmental group, of being the first group to violate Thune's proposed voluntary ban on negative third-party attacks in the race for that state's U.S. Senate seat. Early on, Thune proposed that he and his opponent, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., ask so-called third party groups to stay out of the race and keep ads off the public airwaves.
Thune's campaign says the Sierra Club "violated the agreement by running negative radio attack ads distorting Congressman Thune's record." The ad attacks him for a vote he cast concerning safe drinking water while ignoring Sen. Tom Daschle's, D-S.D., having voted the same way. "Congressman John Thune promised to abide by the terms of Tim Johnson's own 1996 pledge until he was attacked. Unfortunately, the attacks have started, a long six months before election day. The voters of South Dakota deserve a better campaign than the one the Sierra Club and Tim Johnson are giving them," Thune spokesman Christine Iverson said in a release.
On a scale of one to ten, this party is ... -- For 20 years, television's The McLaughlin Group has been one of America' most watched public affairs programs. Over time, it spawned the punditry careers of well-known media stars like FOX News' Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, U.S. News' Michael Barone, and The Washington Times Tony Blankley.
McLaughlin has himself became a media phenomenon -- having made cameo appearances in four major movies about Washington and, in the highest of all cultural accolades, been the subject of a devastating lampoon by master impersonator Dana Carvey on NBC's Saturday Night Live. On Sunday, May 5, McLaughlin and company will make merry at Washington's Willard Hotel in commemoration of the show's anniversary at a party hosted by, of course, Cristina and John McLaughlin.
New line on Newark -- Columnist Arianna Huffington, who regularly expounds on the subject of political reform, is casting stones in the direction of the American civil rights establishment for their silence in the face of venomous attacks on Newark, N.J., City Councilman Cory Booker in his challenge to multi-year incumbent Mayor Sharpe James, both of whom are black Democrats.
"Those holding political power in America today are so used to going unchallenged -- the turnover rate for incumbents is only a smidge higher than for popes -- that when it actually happens, they go nuts," she writes in her latest column. Huffington also lauds Booker for "camping out in the middle of a notorious housing project, going on a hunger strike, and spending six months sleeping in an old RV, traveling from drug hot spot to drug hot spot."
According to Huffington, "The very people who should be on (Booker's) side or, at least, impartial are viciously attacking him. Jesse Jackson, who Booker campaigned for in 1988, called him 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' -- a not so subtle echo of James' claim that Booker isn't black enough." adding, "Remember what I said earlier about these guys going nuts?"
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