WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (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.
Tour of duty -- August makes the beginning of silly season in Washington. With the Congress gone home and the elections not due to start in earnest for another month, it is a time for rumors and gossip.
One rumor making the rounds is that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is planning his next move and will leave the White House sometime in the fall -- most likely after his wedding. Fleischer has not indicated publicly what his plans are but that rumor has spawned other rumors about who is going to take his place, when and if he goes.
We don't know who it will be, but we have a pretty good idea it won't be Torie Clarke, who currently handles the press for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who really doesn't need the help -- and the rest of the Pentagon -- who badly does. Clarke's name is at the top of the rumored list of replacements. A source familiar with her thinking on the matter says she enjoys the Pentagon job too much to contemplate leaving. She is currently on the front lines in seminal events -- the war on terror abroad and the transformation of the national defense at home -- and, in the long run, in a place that may be more important than the West Wing of the White House, in a historical sense.
A better mousetrap -- The nomination of Ambassador Maura Harty to be the new assistant secretary of state for consular affairs is already in trouble -- even before the White House has announced it. Her nomination is said to be awaiting the completion of a White House personnel office background check, though her opponents hope to raise enough red flags to ensure that the announcement never comes.
The stated reason for their opposition is what one coalition's letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell called her "abysmal reputation of capitulating to the demands of foreign states in the case of child abduction." Harty was in charge of official U.S. government efforts on that issue when she served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for consular affairs between 1999 and April of 2001. But insiders say that is only part of the story.
There is also significant concern that Harty will be no improvement over Mary Ryan, who was effectively bounced from the consular affairs post in July over concerns that the U.S. visa program was being poorly run. Harty's critics say the better choice for the job, a person who would reform the visa process and make it much harder for undesirables to enter the country legally, is Rich Douglas, the current chief counsel to the minority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Bayou buy-in -- It is looking increasingly like the race for U.S. Senate in Louisiana this fall won't be over on Election Day. Suzanne Haik Terrell, the state election commissioner, has joined the race for the seat currently held by Democrat Mary Landrieu. Terrell's entry as a Republican into the race brings to four the number of major party candidates vying for the seat.
Because of Louisiana's unique way of electing federal officeholders -- every candidate is on the November ballot -- a U.S. Senate candidate must garner more than 50 percent of the vote in the Election Day primary to win. If no one gets more than 50 percent, then the top two vote getters advance to a December runoff. With four candidates currently in the race -- one Democrat and three Republicans -- and at least one more significant Democrat political figure considering a run, the odds that Landrieu will get the vote she needs to win on election day have diminished significantly.
The Republicans, who had been giving indications that they would make a token effort to beat Landrieu but did not expect to win, are taking the race more seriously now that Terrell is a candidate. Wednesday night she held a fundraiser in Washington hosted by Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Rep. Billy Tauzin, the Louisiana Democrat-turned-Republican who now chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
When is an FOB not an FOB? -- Former Clinton presidential adviser Vernon Jordan took a few swings at President George W. Bush in his speech to the National Urban League convention Monday. Jordan, who was perhaps the city's most prominent "Friend of Bill" during the eight years Clinton served as president, told the conventioneers that Bush won the election by virtue of a single vote on the Supreme Court. Jordan also called Bush "a president who didn't really assume office until after 9-11." And that was just for openers.
Comparing 9-11 to the anti-black violence and segregation evident in past generations, Jordan said, "The difference between Sept. 11 and the terror visited upon the black community is that when we were terrorized, it was by our neighbors and fellow Americans." Jordan also pointed out that, though Bush gave a speech on Wall Street intended to boost investor confidence, "More than $1 trillion in market value has been lost" since the president made his remarks in June -- making it clear that FOB didn't mean "Friend of Bush."
Got a Capital Comment? E-mail CapComm@UPI.com.