UPI's Capital Comment for Sept. 16, 2002

Sept. 16, 2002 at 2:43 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 (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.

Play ball -- At the direction of Oklahoma Republican Rep. J.C. Watts, Congress is hosting a tribute to veterans of the Negro Baseball Leagues with a luncheon, a House resolution honoring league veterans and a news conference later this week. Close to 100 Negro league veterans, including Willie Mays, Harlem's World Series Little League team and other celebrities will join Watts for the salute on Capitol Hill. "The influence of the Negro Baseball Leagues on sports and America is one of the most underrated chapters in our nation's history," Watts said. "Some of the men who played ball before desegregation went on to become household names. There were many players who could keep up with today's stars, yet we will never know their stories. We think nothing of seeing an all-star man of color hit homerun after homerun. It is difficult to realize we would not see that same player a half century ago. As a sportsman myself, I can wish for no other goal except for my neighbor to judge me on my performance rather than the color of my skin," Watts said.

A stunning reversal -- GOPAC, the political committee once led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is under fire once again. This time, Democrats are complaining about a radio spot that aired in the Kansas City, Mo., media market comparing Social Security to "reverse reparations." In a strongly worded statement issued last week, the group disavowed the ad, saying it found the language "misleading and offensive."

According to organization insiders, the group contracted with Access Communications Group, Inc., to undertake a "pilot advertising program" through which the agency would conceive and produce ads for predominantly African-American media outlets. The agency wrote many different scripts and seven were approved for production on issues including school choice, education vouchers, jobs, defense and taxes. The "reverse reparations" spot was not among the scripts approved for production, says one person familiar with the process -- in fact, no one at the organization can remember even seeing a draft script for the spot we are told.

The agency produced the spot independent of GOPAC's authorization but put it on the air identifying GOPAC as the sponsor. "Upon learning that 'Reverse Reparations' was running, GOPAC immediately ordered the ad pulled," spokesman Mike Tuffin said. As a result of the mistake, GOPAC is now "reviewing its relationship with Access Communications Group," Washington-speak for they are about to be fired.

Why some people get the big bucks -- Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Paul Weinstein Jr. and Georgetown University professor George Shambaugh have written a new book about how our national leaders actually make major public policy decisions that affect citizens across the nation.

"The Art of Policy Making" is a guide to the policymaking apparatus of the executive branch and includes stories of policymakers in the George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations. The nuts and bolts approach to the subject highlights both problems and successes to help current and future policymakers avoid pitfalls.

Prior to joining PPI, an adjunct of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Weinstein served as head of policy and planning to former Vice President Al Gore and before that as a senior domestic policy adviser to Clinton. Shambaugh is an assistant professor of international affairs at Georgetown University.

Land of confusion -- While the Congress argues over whether to take a vote on giving presidential authority for a U.S. military strike against Iraq before or after the November election, one of their number, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va., addressed the Iraqi National Assembly on Sunday.

He said, in part, "I hope that my colleagues in the United States Congress will perceive that peaceful dialogue is a more fruitful avenue than the awful road of perpetual warfare. I must say, however, that I believe the first step to restoring a relationship of mutual friendship and respect must be for Iraq to fully comply with United Nations mandates by allowing the return of weapons inspectors. That step would at least give pause to the crisis that threatens to engulf us. ... (T)ime is now terribly short to reverse the momentum toward war. To make that reversal possible, Iraq must cooperate by giving U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access. And in that process, 'honest brokers' and the United Nations as an institution must proceed differently than UNSCOM did, so that next time there will be no abuses, and there will be no misuse of U.N. inspectors for espionage. ... If this work proceeds properly, Iraq will be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Then the sanctions, which have done so much damage to your economy, infrastructure, and health can once and for all be lifted. ... Our delegation is here on behalf of peace. We believe that a new war is not only unnecessary, but wrong."

Rahall traveled to Baghdad as part of a U.S. delegation that also included former U.S Sen. James Abourezk, D-S.D.

Embargo "Si," Castro "No" -- A Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates national telephone survey of 1,200 American adults finds widespread support for the Bush administration's position of continuing the Cuban embargo until the Castro regime honors human rights, releases political prisoners and holds free and fair elections. When given background on the Cuban embargo and the Bush administration's position on it, 56 percent supported the embargo, 27 percent said the embargo should be lifted regardless of the Castro regime's behavior and 17 percent were unsure. "Once again, this shows the difficulty the anti-embargo forces have in convincing Americans that the embargo should be lifted," Robert Moran, vice president at Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates said.

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