UPI's Capital Comment for January 22, 2003

By United Press International

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (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.

Blame game ...


Calling it "The Great Hypocrisy," Joe Sudbay of the liberal Violence Policy Center says the Bush administration is responsible for the ease with which terrorists can gain access to weapons in the United States.

"Evidence is mounting," he writes in a commentary published on, a liberal opinion and news Web site, "that weak U.S. gun laws allow terrorists easy access to weapons ... Unfortunately for the heath and safety of the American public, the answer is that (President) Bush and (Attorney General John) Ashcroft care far more about the NRA (National Rifle Association) than you and me."

Sudbay, who cites statements by two retired federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials to back up his theory, wants the administration "to regulate the deadly .50-caliber sniper rifle" and to reauthorize the federal ban on so-called assault weapons before it expires in September of 2004, though he is not optimistic that they will.

"Given recent history, it is hard to imagine that the Bush administration would actually take a position contrary to the gun lobby. A free-flow of assault weapons and .50-caliber sniper rifles is the NRA's goal, despite the benefit it presents to the terrorists who aim to deny us the very freedoms" he says the administration purports to defend. "When it comes to the gun issue, the White House repeatedly contradicts its own anti-terror message, a glaring lesson in hypocrisy that benefits only the terrorists and the NRA."


Death to the repeal of the death tax ...

It may seem odd that the father of one of the world's richest entrepreneurs is leading the fight against the elimination of the death tax, but there you go. William Gates Sr., currently co-chairman of the Gates Foundation, has written a new book, "Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes," in which he argues for taxing large fortunes.

Gates and co-author Chuck Collins of the liberal group United for a Fair Economy says the death tax is imposed on very few Americans, who, in any case, could not have realized their economic success "without tax-funded infrastructure."

"Many of the great advances in our economy started on some campus or in some laboratory, with government-financed research. It's only right to ask (the wealthy) to give something back after they die," Gates Sr. writes.

For sale? One major league baseball team. Slightly used ...

The Los Angeles Times reports that News Corp., the powerful media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, may be putting the L.A. Dodgers baseball franchise up for sale. News Corp. didn't comment on the rumor, but Murdoch would, according to the Times' estimate, have to sell the team and its stadium for more than $500 million just to break even after paying a record-setting $310 million in 1997.


In the story, writers Sallie Hofmeister and Ross Newhan speculate that the biggest stumbling block in any deal "could be News Corp.'s determination to hang on to the Dodgers' cable rights" -- which some suggest could also expose any potential deal to federal review.

Murdoch's news properties, including the industry-leading Fox News Channel, are frequently attacked by liberal politicians like former Vice President Al Gore, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and others who allege his media properties regularly exhibit a conservative bias in their coverage. "Anything Murdoch tries to do will be opposed by some people who don't like what they perceive to be the politics of his news holdings," Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff told Capital Comment. "It's not about business or markets or fairness," he said. "It's about politics."

Confusing the issue ...

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has tamped down speculation that she might run for Senate if, as appears to be the case, incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., opts for a presidential bid.

According to the Miami Herald's Jim DeFede, Reno says she is "still enjoying" her time out of the public spotlight and has no intentions of running. Asked by DeFede what she would do if Graham runs for president, Reno said, "I have no intentions of running for the Senate if that happens."


Observers say that using the term "intention" leaves the door open -- just a bit -- for Reno to change her mind.

But the uncertainty about Graham's intentions leaves other potential Democratic candidates facing a conundrum. If Graham enters some of the early presidential primaries and runs well, he can skip the Senate race. If he does poorly in the early contests he could drop out of the presidential race in time to file for re-election to the Senate seat he has held since 1986 -- meaning anyone who wants to challenge him for the seat has to consider that Graham, the 900-pound gorilla in Florida Democratic politics, could still join the race at the last minute and blow away all comers.

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