UPI's Capital Comment for Sept. 10, 2002

By United Press International  |  Sept. 10, 2002 at 3:28 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (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.

Friends and enemies -- There is general consensus that Bush White House is -- understandably -- focused on the war against terror and the potential for war with Iraq. However, some of the president's strongest supporters fear he may be on the verge of making the same kind of politically fatal mistakes that his father made in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War. It is now received wisdom that President George H.W. Bush abandoned his promise to oppose tax increases as a precondition of Democratic support for the war to liberate Kuwait. Whether it was -- or whether he simply believed that was the case -- is of little importance. The repudiation of the "read my lips" commitment was a central factor in his 1992 election defeat.

Some Republicans fear George W. Bush is about to make the same kind of miscalculation -- putting everything on the table in a bid to build support for a U.S. military strike against Iraq. They will be paying close attention to the president's Thursday address to the United Nations. Rumors are circulating on Capitol Hill that he will use the speech to announce that the United States is prepared to rejoin UNESCO -- the United Nations cultural agency from which it withdrew during the Reagan administration, citing corruption and anti-Americanism. If Bush brings the United States back into UNESCO, it will be seen by some as a shameless attempt to buy the support of the United Nations for war against Iraq.

Contract, the sequel -- One notion being bandied about as the fall campaign season takes shape is that the Democrats -- under the leadership of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. -- are fashioning their own version of the GOP's tremendously successful Contract with America.

The Contract with America -- a list of 10 specific actions the House would take on its first day if the Republicans were put in charge and 10 public policy measures that were promised floor votes within the first 100 days of GOP control -- helped propel the Republicans to a realigning political victory in the 1994 midterm elections. Now some folks are suggesting the Democrats are looking to replicate the tactic and, hopefully, its success. That they haven't moved ahead is due reportedly to two problems they have not yet figured out how to solve.

First, the Democrats are said to be having a difficult time coming up with a list of issues on which they can promise action that will (1) mobilize their political base and (2) bring swing votes their way that the GOP cannot co-opt with votes before the election. Second, and perhaps more importantly in an age where image is everything, is that whatever they do may be compared to the Gingrich-led Contract with America, a comparison Gephardt in particular is said to want to avoid.

Budget buster -- The considerable tension that exists between the House and Senate over federal spending is about to get worse. Later this week, the Senate is expected to announce efforts to add what it says is $9 billion in additional new spending to the Labor/HHS appropriations bill under consideration. Some budget analysts say the $9 billion is actually closer to $15 billion but, as can only be the case in Washington, the $6 billion difference between the figures is not the real issue. The new spending the Senate is shortly to propose will reportedly add $225 billion to total federal outlays over the next 10 years if it is enacted.

Unforgettable and pressing business -- Congress got back to work Monday after an extended period during which members were home in their districts. Though it has many pressing issues before it, including the many outstanding appropriations bills and the looming war with Iraq, the Congress is not neglecting whimsical and culturally important matters. One of the first items on the congressional calendar as the year winds down was H.R. 4797, a bill by Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., to redesignate the United States Postal Service facility located at 265 South Western Ave. in Los Angeles as the Nat King Cole Post Office. The measure passed by voice vote Monday afternoon.

Things are looking up -- A new survey of young Americans finds 66 percent of them identify the Sept. 11 terror attacks as the greatest single event in their lives. The 2002 State of Our Nation's Youth national survey of young Americans ages 13 to 19, conducted by Peter D. Hart Associates on behalf of the Horatio Alger Association, found that every single teen residing in the Northeast participating in the survey reported being affected by Sept. 11 "while 20 percent of West Coast teens say they were affected only a little or not at all." Pollster Hart says, "Today's high school students have been profoundly affected by the events of the past year, but they are reacting in ways that show them to be both pragmatic and optimistic about the future. They are responding to Sept. 11 by looking for ways to help, and looking ahead to graduation with a combination of apprehension and excitement."

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