UPI's Capital Comment for Aug. 12, 2002

By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst  |  Aug. 12, 2002 at 9:28 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (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.

Hardball -- GOP U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., may be in for the political fight of his life. A member of Congress since 1990, Gilchrest is one of the more reliably liberal members of the House Republican Conference. Dave Fischer, a lawyer from Timonium, Md., who has committed to at least $200,000 of his own money, is challenging him in the September GOP primary. Early indications are that this race will not be known for its kind and gentle demeanor. One early Fischer mailing has a picture of former President Bill Clinton and the number 64 percent on the front.

Flip the post card over and it says "That's the official record of how often 12 year incumbent Wayne Gilchrest voted with Bill Clinton. ... (He) voted with Clinton more than just about any other Republican member of the House." Roughly 40 percent of the redrawn 1st Congressional District is new to Gilchrest and, Fischer hopes, more conservative than the mostly Eastern Shore area that he has represented for the last 12 years. Under the new map, the winner of the GOP primary is likely to win the general election as well.

Good morning South Dakota ... -- The United Seniors Association, a grassroots alliance of older Americans with a membership in excess of 1.5 million, has launched a campaign to pressure Sens. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., to take the lead in passing immediate and permanent tax cuts. "With families all over our country struggling to pay bills and keep food on the table, there has never been a better time for Senate Democrats to join President Bush's effort to pass permanent tax cuts and put money back into our economy," United Seniors' Chairman Charlie Jarvis says. The radio spots airing in each state feature clips from a 1962 speech given by President John F. Kennedy in Detroit to show how, in very similar economic times, Kennedy's program for a strong defense and lower taxes for working families matches the Bush plan. Also appearing in the spots is Adrian Cronauer, the Washington lawyer and Vietnam veteran whose story formed the basis for the academy-award nominated film Good Morning Vietnam starring Robin Williams.

If you drive, don't drink -- As part of its desire for the review and reform of all alcohol advertising, the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives has asked the Federal Trade Commission to review and reconsider its recent ruling on so-called Alcopops, which the association describes as "the growing category of flavored, sweetened malt beverages, which are also known as 'malternatives.'" NAGHSR says the FTC found no evidence that these products or their advertising targeted consumers under the age of 21 but the association disagrees and wants the issue to undergo further study.

Anyway the wind blows -- Mike Meehan, the head of polling and message for the Democratic National Committee says the prospects for his party in the fall look good. In a recent memo to party chairman Terry McAuliffe he writes, "With three months to go until the 2002 elections, the nation's political climate has undergone substantial changes. Virtually, all of these changes improve the Democrats' prospects for success in this year's midterm elections." He goes on to cite President Bush's declining job performance ratings, the lack of potential presidential coattails in the fall, and the fact that DNC polling data shows the Republicans are still seen by most voters as the party of big business as a few of the reasons why things are looking up.

According to Meehan's analysis, when the message "We need to elect more Republicans to Congress to help President Bush fight the war on terrorism, cut taxes, and implement his programs" is positioned against the argument that "We need to elect more Democrats to Congress to provide a check and balance to keep the Republicans in Congress from going too far in favoring the big special interests at the expense of working people" -- "voters conclude that it is more important elect Democrats to Congress by a significant 48 percent to 35 percent. Voters who are undecided in the generic trial heat side with the Democratic message on this question by 39 percent to 29 percent."

Surprise! -- In an unexpected development, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has endorsed former Georgia GOP state House leader Bob Irvin over U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Max Cleland. Saying that Irvin is "no lockstep ideologue," the paper praised his willingness to analyze issues and arrive at thoughtful conclusions. Most of the Washington Republican establishment, including many inside the White House, has been supporting Chambliss, believing the congressman from rural Georgia represents the party's best chance of knocking off Cleland in the fall.

Because kindness is its own reward -- A new report from the American Bar Association's Task Force on the Treatment of Enemy Combatants says "U.S. citizens detained on U.S. soil as enemy combatants in the nation's war on terrorism should have access to judicial review and to legal counsel, and Congress should establish clear standards and procedures for their treatment." The recommendations in the report may be considered for adoption by the association in February, the ABA said. The report can be found on the ABA Web site at Abanet.org.

Personnel note -- President George W. Bush intends to designate Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughter of one former U.S. president and the granddaughter-in-law of another, to be the new chairman of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

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