UPI's Capital Comment for Nov. 1, 2002

By United Press International  |  Nov. 1, 2002 at 7:45 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 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.

Foreshadowing? -- In the run up to a national election, there are all kinds of theories and formulas that get passed around that some people suggest can predict which party will end up with control of the Congress. They run the gamut from the historical trends among parties in off-year elections to whether the World Series was won by the National or American League team and the number of games it took.

With that in mind, there are some people who are wondering about the symbolism, if any, contained within the demolition of one of the buildings on the House side of Capitol Hill, which began in earnest at the end of the week.

Anyone within sight of it on Friday could, if they looked, see the massive wrecking ball punching through the roof and the walls of House Annex Number 1, located across the street from the Cannon House Office Building.

House Annex 1, is, of course, better known as the "O'Neill House Office Building" in honor of Thomas P. 'Tip' O'Neill, Democrat of Massachusetts, who was speaker between 1977 and 1986, when he retired.

What, if anything, the demolition of the O'Neill building the week before the November elections suggests is open to interpretation but, in case anyone asks, it is the architect of the Capitol, a non-partisan position, and not the Republican congressional leadership who made the decision to bring it down.

Time heals all wounds -- Invoking the destruction of European Jewry during the Holocaust, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League's Conference on Global Anti-Semitism Friday that his nation would stand as a leader in the fight against rising global anti-Semitism, while continuing its "wholehearted commitment" to the security and permanence of Israel.

"The origins and identity of the democratic Germany can only be understood against the background of my country's responsibility for the Holocaust," Fischer told the conference, meeting this week in New York. "Remembering this crime against humanity and resulting obligations will continue to determine German policy in the future as well."

Germany, he said, has a "moral responsibility" to fight anti-Semitism wherever it appears, which is why Germany's commitment to Israel's security remains steadfast.

"This wholehearted commitment to Israel is a key parameter of German foreign policy," he told the conferees.

"It is not negotiable and forms the basis of the special relationship between Germany and Israel."

Keep this under your hat -- Buried in the foreign operations budget for FY2003 is a small amount of money to fund covert information collection efforts inside Iraq. The Intelligence Collection Program of the Iraqi National Congress is supposed to receive $619,000 in support of its efforts to find out critical points of information, like the locale of some of the alleged hidden weapons of mass destruction built by Saddam, and to do other useful things like find people with important stories to tell who are willing to defect to the United States.

The program isn't moving forward, however, because one member of the Senate has put a secret hold on it. Some Republicans in the Senate think the "holder" is Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy, who voted against the president's resolution on Iraq.

The reason for Leahy's hold, if it is in fact his, is slightly more confusing. It seems that it is a result of efforts by the Department of State to stop the program.

Why? One source speculates that "it is the usual State Department policy -- ABC: Anybody but Chelabi."

Chelabi is the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and is not a favorite of the folks in Foggy Bottom, many of whom seem resistant to the president's effort to get Saddam out of power, one way or another.

How much? -- Cost estimates on the potential invasion and occupation of Iraq are alarmingly low and ignore major costs to taxpayers, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a liberal budget watchdog organization. "The cost of 'regime change' will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars," TCS Program Director Nate Heasley said.

TCS cites figures from the Congressional Budget Office and other groups estimating that invading and occupying Iraq would cost between $40 billion and $200 billion.

"However," the group said, "those figures do not realistically estimate the costs of deploying troops, prosecuting a war with Iraq, or the subsequent occupation of Iraq that many analysts suggest will be necessary to provide stability in the region.

"An Iraq war is likely to cost tens of billions more than the $200 billion estimate provided by President (George W.) Bush's lead economic adviser."

Got your ears on? -- ABC Radio Networks and National Public Radio are joining forces to air a one-hour simulcast election special on Nov. 4. NPR Host Tavis Smiley and ABC Radio's Tom Joyner will present "Black Agenda 2002," live from Harlem's famous Apollo Theater.

This first-ever joint broadcast between NPR and the ABC Radio Network will air the day before the 2002 elections, and will focus on black Republicans. The program will include a commentary by President George W. Bush.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell have also been invited to participate. Joyner and Smiley are also scheduled to talk with retiring U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., California state GOP Secretary Shannon Reeves and Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who is widely known for spearheading the referendum to end government racial preference in California.

The one-hour special will be part of Joyner's usual four-hour program. The remainder of his Nov. 4 show will feature interviews with Democrats, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., and Texas Senate candidate Ron Kirk and comedian Paul Mooney.

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