UPI's Capital Comment for March 26, 2003

March 26, 2003 at 3:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 26 (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.

Good numbers...

Former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., should find encouragement in a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll of 420 registered Democrats and Democratic leaners conducted in mid-March. According to the survey, Gephardt is second choice to be the party's nominee for president in 2004, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., finishing first with 28 percent.

With Clinton, who has said repeatedly through her spokesmen that she is not running, factored in, Gephardt is the choice of 16 percent. Without Clinton in the survey, Gephardt is in the lead with 20 percent.

This should be a boost to his campaign because, while Gephardt has been running well in Iowa surveys, he is doing poorly among New Hampshire Democrats despite his almost 100 percent name recognition. The real question, though, is how well Gephardt is doing among the party's 2004 Boston super-delegates, those party leaders, elected officials and other important Democrats who make up a considerable part of the vote on the convention floor.

Speculation is growing that Gephardt may be running better than people think among this core group -- putting him on the inside track to win the insider vote.


David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter who is often associated with The Weekly Standard magazine, has penned a controversial essay for the TWS competitor, National Review, on the subject of "unpatriotic conservatives." It is a serious statement about opponents of the war against Iraq and it has generated a lot of discussion since pre-publication copies began to circulate around Washington.

In the piece, subtitled "A war against America," Frum accuses a number of conservatives, most of whom are not household names and who are lumped together under the umbrella of "paleo-conservatives," of having made common cause with enemies of the United States by opposing the war.

"These conservatives are relatively few in number," he writes "but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world ... in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies."

They have, Frum says, "made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist anti-war movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their common enemies."

Understandable, some of those Frum names are taking exception to the characterization: most notably syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who, along with columnist and author Pat Buchanan, is probably the only other readily recognizable name on Frum's list.

Novak fired back angrily in one of his syndicated columns, in defense of himself and of Buchanan, saying: "During the nearly 40 years that I have been privileged to write (my) column, I have not subjected readers to my personal controversies. Now, however, I feel constrained to identify myself as a Korean War-vintage Army officer (non-combat) who has always supported our troops and prayed for their success during many wars. This war is no exception."

"Dealing with statements about me even so calumnious as Frum's might seem petty in time of war. But broader issues are at stake. Frum represents a body of conservative opinion that wants to delegitimize criticism from the right of policy that has led to war against Iraq," Novak wrote.

Novak is not alone. Other prominent conservatives are calling the Frum essay an effort to stifle dissent on the right -- by suggesting opposition to the war is both unpatriotic and anti-Semitic by associating all conservative dissenters with those who choose to speak before Holocaust denial groups and by claiming that dissenting conservatives "quickly decided that the War on Terror was a Jewish war."

Frum concludes by charging that paleoconservatives are "thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure if it should happen. They began by hating the neo-conservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country."

This is not a fight that is going to go gently into the good night.

Being frank with France and the rest of Europe...

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., appeared before the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday to sound a warning to European leaders who think they can close off their markets to U.S. agricultural exports.

In his remarks, the Illinois congressman attacked European protectionism disguised as food safety, motivated by what one person familiar with Hastert's thinking said was "emotion, culture or their own poor history with food safety regulations."

Congressional critics have repeatedly labeled the European Union's 4-year-old moratorium on genetically modified foods as indefensible. And, with no end in sight, proponents of open markets are going to push for greater access to Europe and will increase the pressure until what some are calling a non-tariff barrier put up in the name of fear, prejudice and junk science comes down.

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