UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 7, 2002

By United Press International  |  Oct. 7, 2002 at 11:51 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (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.

E-rage -- A new E-mercial paid for by the Democratic National Committee has the Republicans up in arms. The ad, circulating by e-mail, depicts President George W. Bush pushing first a young black man and then an elderly white woman, both in wheelchairs, down a slope a la Richard Widmark in his career-making performance in the 1947 film "Kiss of Death." The Democrats say they are trying to depict how the Bush plan for social security reform is dangerous for seniors and younger workers because of the way it is potentially tied to the stock market. DNC spokeswoman Maria Cardona says the party is trying to portray the threats posed by social security privatization in a "humorous way." But not everyone is laughing. The American Conservative Union National Field Director Kerri Houston says the ad, "Is wrong on so many levels; it's hard to know where to start."

"First of all, this fundraising piece makes fun of those whose physical health relegates them to a wheelchair. Second, this fundraising attempt steps way over the line. To attack our president on a level so base and tacky is nothing short of an insult to the presidency," she says.

"No senior citizen currently receiving Social Security benefits will be affected," Houston says, " by President Bush's plan to bring personal ownership of retirement savings to working Americans. I just cannot understand why the Democrats think elderly abuse is funny."

General criticism -- Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO, says the speech he gave recently was not, as he understood it to be, "a Democrat fundraiser" as Capital Comment asserted. Clark says it was a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council and that he spoke on national security issues, as he often does when asked. "People have a duty to speak out on critical issues when they are asked," he said. Clark also says he is not a candidate for public office as some speculate and that his comments about retired military personnel becoming television commentators and pundits were not a general criticism but were actually meant for one specific individual who, Clark says, "took shots at me during the Kosovo campaign without ever talking to me" about what the United States planned to do.

CD-Rooms -- The Trust for Museum Exhibitions is sending around a most unusual news release -- its on CD-ROM. The disc is devoted to a new traveling exhibition of Americana from the diplomatic reception rooms inside the United States Department of State. Close to 200 period objects and artifacts will tour the country for the first time beginning in Portland. Ore., in April 2003. Among them are a Duncan Phyfe settee, silver by Paul Revere, and paintings by Gilbert Stuart.

Solamente Ingles (dos) -- A fight is shaping up over Colorado's Amendment 31, a provision to end bilingual education in the state in favor of English immersion classes. Gov. Bill Owens, the state's first Republican governor in almost 30 years, is opposed to it while a number of prominent conservatives and libertarians are supporters.

In a letter to Ron Unz, the millionaire California who leads English for the Children, the group behind the anti-bilingual initiatives, Owens says, "This was not an easy decision. As we discussed when we have talked about this issue in the past, I am a backer of this cause. It's clear to me, as it is to you, that the path to true opportunity in America is predicated on English proficiency. You and I agree that the teaching of English to children who don't speak English must be the top goal for our schools."

Owens says several elements of the specific initiative make him unable to support it. He cites the threat of increased litigation and the threat to parental control over the education as two of his reasons. "You and I agree that children who are not proficient in English should be placed in classes where the immediate goal is to reach English proficiency ... But some parents might not agree ... In my reading of Amendment 31, the promise of choice for parents is choked off by the threat of litigation against those who approve a parent's alternative choice," he says.

The fix-it is in -- The people who build cars and the people who fix them have finally reached "an understanding" regarding the type of service information and diagnostic tools available to independent repairers. For some time independent repair shops have found it difficult to gain access to the information they need to fix automobiles. Under the new agreement, automakers have committed to providing independent repair shops with the same service and training information related to vehicle repair as is available to franchised dealerships.

Automotive Service Association Chairman Dan Frohlich called the agreement "An investment in the future of independent automotive service." The new agreement is a bridge between manufacturers and the aftermarket, he says, and insures the long-term viability of independent repair shops.

Personnel notes -- Suzy DeFrancis, director of public affairs for the public relations firm Porter Novelli, is headed to the White House to be the new deputy assistant to the president for communications. In her new role, the White House says, DeFrancis will assist in general communications strategy, planning and execution of the president's agenda ... Doug Badger, a former top aide to Senate Republican Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma and a senior official in the Department of Health and Human Services under Dr. Louis Sullivan, is joining the White House staff as a special assistant to the president for economic policy. Badger will assume the senior health policy coordination responsibilities of Dr. Mark McClellan, who has been nominated by the president to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

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