UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 18, 2003

Feb. 18, 2003 at 3:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (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.

A steely resolve ...

The NAACP concluded its 94th annual meeting by issuing "a battery of criticisms of policies hostile to civil rights."

"President Bush continues to nominate right-wing extremists to the federal bench," said NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, a former Democratic representative for Maryland. "The NAACP must stand in firm opposition to the confirmation of any and all nominees, whose judicial record gives rise to suspicion about their ability to render impartial judgment and fair interpretation of federal law."

The NAACP's board adopted several resolutions critical of the Bush administration's policies and "extreme conservatives in the Congress." Included was an offer of support to Asian-American groups calling for the resignation of U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., as chairman of the House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, following a recent interview in which he "endorsed President Franklin Roosevelt's decision to intern Japanese Americans during World War II as correct and necessary for the safety of the country."

The NAACP board also called on Congress to enact legislation to expand the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act to all home mortgage lending; adopt strong predatory lending legislation; and oppose the confirmation of Jeff Sutton to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. "Sutton's record as an attorney and as a director of the Federalist Society, a right-wing extremist legal association, raises significant concerns regarding his qualifications and his ability to function as a neutral, effective judge," the group said.

In ...

As expected, former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour has entered the race for governor of Mississippi. Barbour made his formal declaration in his hometown of Yazoo City. A former Reagan White House political aide, he sprang to national prominence as national GOP chairman during much of the Clinton administration. On his watch congressional Republicans developed 1994's Contract with America, which Barbour backed up by, in part, using some of the committee's considerable financial resources to reproduce it in an ad that ran in TV Guide magazine.

The probe of allegedly illegal foreign contributions from Asia to the Democratic National Committee and Clinton-Gore re-election fund also looked at Barbour's role in securing a $2.1 million loan guarantee from a Hong Kong businessman to help the Republicans in 1994. Barbour said on more than once occasion that he did not know overseas funds were involved and the matter was eventually dropped.

He told supporters on Monday that, after several months spent on a listening tour of the state, he was running for Mississippi's highest office to get the economy back on track and to restore fiscal responsibility to the state's government.

Barbour is expected to win the GOP nomination easily. He likely opponent in the fall election will be incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, who is seeking to become only the second man re-elected governor since the term limit was repealed.

One more time ...

If his friends were asked to find one word to describe former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, they might use "persistent" -- though foes would likely try for something a bit more colorful. In either case, Barr is making yet another try for public office and has tossed his hat into the ring in Georgia's open sixth congressional district.

A Reagan and Bush-era U.S. Attorney for Georgia's northern district, Barr made his first run for office in 1992, losing the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to former Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell in the runoff by 1,500 votes. Coverdell went on to defeat incumbent Democrat Sen. Wyche Fowler in a post-election runoff while Barr planned his next move -- a 1994 run for Congress in the state's seventh congressional district against veteran Democrat U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden.

Barr won that race by a slim margin but managed to make the seat his own until, as a result of redistricting, he gave up his redrawn seat for a run in the more favorably Republican district occupied by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. John Linder. In a brutal campaign that pitted party people against conservative activists, Linder won handily.

Now Barr is making another run. He won't have a free ride to the nomination -- several local politicians are also exploring the race -- but he goes into the campaign with a national network of donors and supporters who can assure he will make a real race of it.

Personnel notes ...

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation Bobby Jindal is stepping down effective Feb. 21 "to consider other opportunities in his home state of Louisiana." President Bush named Jindal, the former president of the University of Louisiana system, to the post in March 2001. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation William Raub will fill the post temporarily when Jindal's resignation becomes effective Feb. 21. ... Former New Jersey Republican state Sen. Rich Bagger has hired on as the top lobbyist in Washington for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

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