UPI's Capital Comment for March 5, 2003

March 5, 2003 at 5:39 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 5 (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.

Speedy delivery ...

Fred Rogers, known to millions of American children and their parents as the soft-spoken host of television's Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, died Feb. 27 of stomach cancer. His long-running children's program was probably best known for its signature opening, with Rogers coming through the door of a small home and, while singing the theme song, exchanging his shoes and suit coat for sneakers and a cardigan sweater. The show begin life in Pittsburgh and was later picked up nationally by the Public Broadcasting System.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., who hails from a district around Pittsburgh, took to the floor of the House this week to commemorate Rogers' life and achievements and paid him a very special tribute.

While speaking, Doyle removed his suit coat and donned a bright red cardigan -- as a living tribute to Fred Rogers. Strictly speaking, the rules of the House require gentlemen to wear coat and tie at all times while on the floor but, in this case, no one seemed to mind.

Fueling up and rarin' to go ...

The potential cost of war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein threatens to further increase an already, by some standards, sizable budget deficit. There is some talk on Capitol Hill that one avenue begin explored for a potential revenue increase would be to increase the federal tax on gasoline. It is not yet clear what the proposed hike would entail, but we hear the folks at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue are taking the idea seriously -- and they are very, very much opposed to it.

Consent to advise ...

The Democratic Leadership Council, the moderate group within the party that former President Bill Clinton used as a springboard to national attention while still governor of Arkansas, has named Pennsylvania Rep. Jennifer Mann to be the new chairman of is State Legislative Advisory Board.

Mann, who represents a district in Allentown, Pa., is currently in her third term as a member of the Pennsylvania House. Prior to taking office, she owned and operated her own wireless communications company.

She replaces former Wisconsin state Rep. Antonio Riley, who has accepted a Cabinet position in Gov. Jim Doyle's new administration.

Last one in's ...

The filing deadline for the Mississippi gubernatorial race came and went Saturday with a surprise, last-minute entry into the field. Mitchell H. Tyner, a trial lawyer with what some have termed "a thriving product liability practice," jumped into the race for the GOP nomination against former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour.

Barbour, of course, is not the only gubernatorial candidate with a trial lawyer opponent. Incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, is facing an intra-party challenge from John Arthur Eaves Jr., a former political ally and trial attorney who has put considerable heat on Musgrove for failing to stop efforts to reform the Mississippi civil justice system.

Some folks suspect the unknown two primary foes may be stalking horses for a multi-billion dollar industry that fears the voters are ready to put an end to the days of rich payouts -- and that if it works on the Delta it may appear elsewhere.

A real legion of fans ...

The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans organization, has bestowed high honors on singer Wayne Newton, known to many as the King of Las Vegas. On Wednesday the legion's national commander, Ronald F. Conley, presented Newton with the 2003 American Legion National Commander's Public Relations Award in recognition of his long-standing support for U.S. servicemen and women and veterans. The award has previously been bestowed on a diverse group including NASCAR, Wal-Mart, NBC's Tom Brokaw and former U.S. Ambassador Alan Keyes. The American Legion was founded in Paris in 1919 by a group of American World War I veterans.

Unwrapping a national treasure ...

In September, the National Archives will mark the completion of the first phase of a major renovation project with a rededication of the building's rotunda.

Also being presented for the first time is the newly encased Charters of Freedom exhibit. For the first time, the agency says, the millions of people who visit the site each year will be able to see at the same time all four pages of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

The re-dedication ceremonies begin on Sept. 7, as replicas of the documents will embark on a symbolic journey by horseback from Philadelphia to Washington.

Put up your dukes, left fist first ...

TomPaine.com, an online journal of liberal opinion, has challenged the authors of two best-selling books on media criticism to debate left-wing pundit Eric Alterman on the subject of ideological bias in the American media.

The group wants former newsman Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter, the author of several best sellers including "Slander" -- an analysis of liberal bias in the media -- to debate Alterman, author of the recent book "What Liberal Media?" According to TomPaine.com, Alterman has already agreed to participate.

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