UPI's Capital Comment for June 19, 2002

By United Press International  |  June 19, 2002 at 1:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 19 (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.

Delay departure -- Susan Hirschmann, the high-powered chief of staff to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is leaving for greener pastures. Widely consider be one of the most powerful women on Capitol Hill, Hirschmann has been DeLay's top congressional aide since 1997. Her destination remains a secret at this point but most of the attention is focused on who will replace her. The current betting is that Kathryn Lehman, DeLay's current policy director and a former staffer to Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is one of two leading candidates to replace Hirschmann. The other is Tim Berry, currently DeLay's chief floor assistant.

In the chair -- The House leadership has announced that Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, will chair the committee being created to synthesize the legislation creating the new Department of Homeland Security. Armey will have to evaluate and pull together into one piece of legislation recommendations from the various committees overseeing government agencies being wrapped into the new department. The resolution authorizing the process is expected to come to the House floor sometime this week.

Take pride in your work -- News that a Gay Pride celebration is scheduled for Wednesday at the U.S. Department of Justice has caused several conservative leaders to call on Attorney General John Ashcroft to put a stop to it. The conservatives are concerned that such an event would generate a lot of press coverage and would send a confusing message to the Republican grassroots given the high level of regard in which many of them hold Ashcroft -- who has received much attention for the quasi-public way he mixes the dictates of his faith with his public responsibilities.

A Rove-ing report -- Campaign for America's Future, a leftwing political group, is holding a discussion entitled "How should Democrats respond to the Karl Rove strategy of using the war for partisan advantage, while blurring the differences on domestic issues?" at the National Press Club on June 21. The event, which begins at 9:30 AM, will include remarks from Stan Greenberg, the former Clinton pollster who now makes up one third of the triad behind The Democracy Corps; Guy Molyneux, of Peter Hart Research; Dee Brown, of the polling firm of Lake Snell Perry and Associates; and Bob Borsage, CAF's co-director.

Borsage and Greenberg will, according to a release announcing the event, "discuss the Rove strategy, and lay out the alternative issues and strategy that will define the 2002 political debate" while Molyneux and Brown will discuss Social Security, health care and prescription drugs.

Falling behind -- A new study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reports the voter turnout rate for young Americans "dropped by a third... in the three decades since 18-year-olds were first eligible to vote." "The drop in turnout among younger voters is very real and alarmingly large," William Galston, the former Clinton White House aide who is now a Circle director, said. The group says that young Hispanics are far less likely to vote then other young adults -- only 30 percent of eligible Latino youth voted in 2000 compared to 42 percent of whites and blacks. Young college graduates are more than three times as likely to vote as those who have not finished high school, CIRCLE says, by a margin of 69 percent to 21 percent.

Flying solo -- ABC News President David Westin made official on Tuesday what has been long-rumored: George Stephanopoulos, the former top aide to both House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and President Bill Clinton, will takeover as the lone host ABC's This Week in September. Stephanopoulos will replace the team of Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts -- who have co-anchored the program since the founding host, broadcast news legend David Brinkley retired.

"As the torch at 'This Week' is passed to George Stephanopoulos," Westin said, "I could not have more confidence in his abilities to lead the program forward. In his more than five years at ABC News covering national and international stories, George has demonstrated a keen understanding of the issues and superb ability to communicate to an audience."

And the award goes to... -- The board of selectors for the American Institute for Public Service, founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr., R-Ohio, and activist Sam Beard, presented its annual Jefferson Awards for distinguished public service at a ceremony in Washington Tuesday night. Among those honored were former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, recognized for greatest public service by an elected or appointed official, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who were honored for the greatest public service benefiting the disadvantaged.

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