UPI's Capital Comment for Nov. 19, 2002

By United Press International  |  Nov. 19, 2002 at 10:48 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (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.

The shirt off their back -- The "Freepers," as the folks at Free Republic are known, are at it again. Back in 2000, they -- and not Republican Party activists as Karenna Gore Schiff suggested in last Friday's interview with ABC's Barbara Walters -- staked out a spot near the vice presidential residence during the post-Florida recount period, shouting "Get out of Cheney's house!" over and over and over again.

Now they are turning their sights on Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe. The D.C. chapter of Free Republic has produced a T-shirt, one of which came in Monday's mail. The attached note read, "Election 2002, Terry McAuliffe, the man who disenfranchised (former Atlanta Mayor) Maynard Jackson out of the DNC chairmanship, lost the election and refused to take responsibility for the overall disaster." The shirt, black poly-cotton with yellow letters, reads "Hey McAuliffe -- Get out of Maynard's Chair!" Protests are expected.

And now, a commercial message -- The Center for Individual Freedom, a libertarian group that calls itself "the leading voice on many of the nation's pre-eminent legal issues," has published a new monograph on the subject of commercial speech and the First Amendment.

"Free Speech in a Commercial World: The Nike Paradox" by CFIF Executive Director D. Eric Schippers is an analysis of the prevailing legal trends concerning corporate speech and advertising. The 20-page pamphlet, including five pages of endnotes, traces the evolution of the limitations placed on commercial speech in the 20th Century and discusses encouraging trends for the 21st. The pamphlet may be obtained from the group on its Web site at cfif.org.

Strange bedfellows -- The American Civil Liberties Union, a liberal civil rights group has lately been making common cause with conservatives in an effort to limit the expansion of the power of the federal government in the post-Sept. 11 environment. But the bonds connecting them may be starting to fray. Several prominent conservative leaders are already unhappy with the ACLU over a multimillion dollar television campaign featuring an ad that attacks Attorney General John Ashcroft. A message sent to the ACLU Action Network may now really send them over the edge.

The ACLU is now linking the fight against increased government snooping to an attack on conservative political activists. Needless to say, feathers on the right are ruffled.

"As an ACLU online activist, you know better than most that government over-reaching in the name of anti-terrorism will only accelerate as both Houses of Congress and the administration close ranks," the recent e-mail message says. "And leaders of the religious right are now convinced that their agenda will get enacted next year in Congress. We are in for the fights of our lives on women's reproductive rights, prayer in schools and other church-state issues, privacy and other bedrock civil liberties issues." The missive closes with a request to join the ACLU and to forward the message to friends. "Now more than ever, we need everyone who loves liberty to become members of the ACLU," the group says -- though members of the so-called religious right apparently need not apply.

From the department of dirty tricks -- An effort may be under way to recast the complaints about the pre-election memorial service for Minnesota Democrat Sen. Paul Wellstone as some kind of Republican dirty trick.

In a letter to Capital Comment, a self-described "ex-Minnesotan who watched the Wellstone service live on C-SPAN" claims the description of the memorial service began to reflect partisan concerns once Republicans began talking about what had happened at the event. "The coverage that night and early in the morning tracked closely with what I watched. It was only in later accounts that I began to read what to my PR trained eye was a highly partisan, planned story line," our correspondent writes. "The story was so out of register with the event itself, that I have been motivated to try to walk back the trail of stories to the source. (Former Republican congressman and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., presidential campaign adviser) Vin Weber is obviously a key figure, and his e-mail to the Star-Tribune is probably the first evidence of the planting of the story line," he says.

A single message alleging a conspiracy is, in and of itself, nothing. However, stories that repeat the theme have begun to appear on different Internet sites devoted to left-wing political opinion. Buzzflash, a site that purports to be the Drudge Report of the left, featured a link to one such commentary for much of the Nov. 16 weekend. Expect to hear more of this kind of thing in the future.

A figure of speech -- Marin County, Calif., from which American Taliban John Walker Lindh hails, can now claim to be the home of the most unusual anti-war demonstration to have occurred in the run-up to possible war with Saddam Hussein.

Wearing what organizers said was "nothing but afternoon rain," 50 women lay down au natural on Love Field last Tuesday to spell out the word "Peace" with their bodies. Organizers said the demonstration was an effort to ""show solidarity with the people of Iraq."

"Women from all ages and walks of life took off their clothes, not because they are exhibitionists but because they felt it was imperative to do so," organizers said, explaining that the women "wanted to unveil the truth about the horrors of war, to commune in their nudity with the vulnerability of Iraqi innocents, and to shock a seemingly indifferent Bush administration into paying attention."

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