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UPI's Capital Comment for February 7, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 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.

The tent shrinks...

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The fallout over what some have called "Muslim bashing" at the 30th annual Conservative Political Action Conference continues. In the latest development, conservative strategist Grover Norquist has "disinvited" a leading defense policy expert from attending the weekly forum Norquist hosts at his office over remarks he made at CPAC. In a letter to the Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney, Norquist wrote, "I have learned that you took the opportunity during your Thursday remarks at the 30th annual (CPAC) to impugn the loyalty of Ali Tulbah, an associate director of cabinet affairs in the Bush White House... There is no place in the conservative movement for racial prejudice, religious bigotry or ethnic hatred. This is the second time that a Muslim working for President George W. Bush has been subjected to an attack by you because of his faith."

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In the question and answer session following the civil liberties panel, Gaffney, who served at the Pentagon under President Ronald Reagan, expressed concern that representatives of the American Muslim Council, which he called "one of the leading Wahhabist sympathizers and, I believe, funded organizations in this country," had been invited to meet with President Bush.

According to Gaffney, the AMC issued a press release that "credited one Ali Tulbah for having gotten them into the White House." He went on to point out that Tulbah's father "is one Hasan Tulbah, the treasurer of ... a prominent Wahhabi mosque in Houston... This is not is how we win the hearts and minds of peace-loving, pro-American Muslims, it is a perilous path and I hope that it will be corrected."

It was that statement, a source close to Norquist says, that provoked Gaffney's exclusion until he makes "a public apology to the Ali Tulbah," the other Muslim whom he is alleged to have attacked and the president. Gaffney did not respond to several calls from UPI seeking clarification of his remarks about Tulbah, but told the Washington Post Thursday that his remarks were not "remotely... racist or bigoted."

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Time to hit the political redial button...

Former California Republican Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian has announced he will try to unite the various forces working to remove Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, from office. Kaloogian tied his announcement to the opening of the RecallGrayDavis.com Web site Wednesday morning. "I am starting this recall drive after determining that there must be a broad-based and multi-party effort that will have the credibility to qualify the recall for the ballot. As it stands right now, we need leadership to unite the various splinter recall efforts that have been sprouting up over the past several weeks," Kaloogian said.

For the next several weeks the effort will focus on organizing and recruiting the volunteers needed to collect the close to 900,000 valid signatures required on petitions to qualify the recall effort for a special election ballot.


Good ole' golden rule days...

On Wednesday the Utah state Senate passed a bill establishing the most ambitious tuition tax credit program in the United States. The bill, which passed by a 20-to-8 margin, would give parents a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for private school tuition, up to $2,132 per year. Only children not already in private schools and children from low-income families would qualify for the credit.

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The bill also allows corporations to avoid up to half of their income tax liability by making contributions to Scholarship Granting Organizations, which would in turn pass the money on to students attending private schools. It now goes to the state House, where it faces a tougher challenge. Proponents may possibly try to combine it with other education measures so as to avoid a threatened veto by Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt.


Coming soon to a shelf near you...

D.C. damage control guru and Reagan White House alum Eric Dezenhall's passion for writing seems to be turning into much more than a hobby these days. Following three printings in hardback, his critically acclaimed first novel Money Wanders will be released in paperback form from St. Martin's press next week. Set on the Jersey Shore, the novel recounts the turbulent summer of a disgraced GOP pollster who is recruited by an Atlantic City mob boss to run a sub rosa campaign to improve his public image so that he may obtain a license to run a casino.

St. Martin's Minotaur will publish his second novel, Jackie Disaster -- another take on the same theme -- in June. Dezenhall's crisis management book, Nail Em!, comes out in paperback in March.

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And the award goes to...

Myanmarese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi is the non-profit Freedom Forum's choice to receive the latest Al Neuharth Free Spirit of the Year Award, which carries with it a $1 million prize. Suu Kyi was selected for what the Forum called "her free-spirited, non-violent struggle for human rights and democracy. " The award is given annually to a person in the news who has stirred the public's hearts and souls by demonstrating the human capacity to dream, dare and do. This is the first time a single winner has been awarded the entire $1 million prize, named for the founder of the Freedom Forum upon his retirement from the board.


Got an item for Capital Comment? E-mail it to CapComm@UPI.com.

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