UPI's Capital Comment for April 15, 2003

April 15, 2003 at 6:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 15 (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.

What's in a name ...

During the 2000 presidential contest, reporters and Democrats alike repeatedly made fun of then Texas Gov. George W. Bush's inability to name the leader of Chechnya and two other countries when quizzed about them during an interview. The jokes took root, eventually becoming a regular element of political parodies on "Saturday Night Live," which helps set the tone for much of America's political humor.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who wants to replace Bush as president, appears to have gone him one better.

A column published in the April 11 issue of Editor and Publisher magazine reports how Dean, a physician by training, got The New York Times to refer to him as "Dr." rather than Mr. Dean in its news pages. "'I was Gov. Dean and Dr. Dean everywhere except in the Times,' he says in a recent cell-phone interview from New Hampshire, the first presidential-primary state," columnists Allan and Joanna Wolper report.

They go on to quote Dean saying: "I asked them how come they referred to House Speaker Bill Frist ... as Dr. Frist and they kept calling me Mr.," something that is probably news to Frist.

Frist, who like Dean was trained as a physician, is not the House speaker; U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is. And Sen., or Dr. Frist, if you prefer, is majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Family feud ...

If the polls are any indication, Missouri voters may be ready to turn Democrat Gov. Bob Holden out of office. A recent Zogby poll for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found Holden's job approval rating to be very soft. Only 8 percent of the 603 registered voters participating in the survey said their view was "very favorable." This is in stark contrast to the 39 percent who said their view was "somewhat" or "very unfavorable," a combined figure that barely passes the 38 percent who hold a "somewhat favorable" view.

With numbers like these, it isn't surprising that some Democrats are trying to convince state Auditor Claire McCaskill to mount a primary challenge to the first-term Democrat.

Two Democrats who are on board with the re-election bid are former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., and her daughter Robin. The two endorsed Holden's bid for re-election at the Democrats' April 5 Jackson Day event.

Whoever the Democrats nominate for governor in 2004, the likely GOP opponent is part of the state's newest political dynasty, Secretary of State Matt Blunt, son of U.S. House Republican Whip Roy Blunt.

Said to be considering a bid for the office, the younger Blunt would vacate for a gubernatorial bid is the aforementioned Robin Carnahan, who has apparently been tapped to carry her family's distinguished political pedigree into the next generation.

A cold day ...

Teamsters International President James P. Hoffa and Doug Wheeler, representing the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, will join hands Wednesday to announce the formation of the Labor Environment Alliance. Hoffa and Wheeler, a former executive director of the Sierra Club and former vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, will announce the beginning of an effort to counter traditional liberal positions on environmental issues. The new group will engage in media and grassroots educational activities making the case for pro-jobs, pro-economic growth, pro-environment policies directly to the American people.

A cold reception ...

A survey of 512 adults conducted by Republican pollster Dave Dittman gives U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a 47 percent approval rating, which may spell trouble come the election.

Murkowski, who was appointed to the seat held by her father when her father became governor of the state, must win election on her own in November 2004. Some Republicans in the state are said to still be bitter about the selection process, in which a number of names were put forward as part of a dog-and-pony show that ended with her selection, something some believe had been decided even before the process started.

According to the Washington rumor mill, some of the candidates who were suggested but not picked may be cooking up a surprise of their own -- planning to choose one from among their number as a candidate to go head-to-head against Murkowski in the GOP Senate primary.

Video-dome ...

The White House is going live online. "Ask the White House," a discussion between administration officials and White House Web page visitors, debuts Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT. The interactive forum allows for citizens who log on to engage in a 30-minute question-and-answer session. The discussion is also open to anybody from around the world who wants to and can log on. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card hosts the inaugural session.

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