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October 18, 2002

Inside Politics

Greg Pierce

News and political dispatches from around the nation.

     Thune gains
Top Stories
• U.S. softens on resolution
• North Korea's nuclear program 'troubling'
• U.S. saw North Korea's work to enrich fuel for nukes
• Bombs kill 6 in Philippines
• Ex-Enron trader admits to manipulating prices
• Police discredit sniper witness
• Pope expected to tell bishops to ease sex-abuse policy

     "In late August, South Dakota Republicans were wincing. It looked like the state that had voted GOP for president every year since 1968 (including 1972, when one South Dakota senator, George McGovern, ran) could re-elect Senator Tim Johnson over its star Republican congressman John Thune. But after slogging through a late summer nadir, the Thune campaign has returned to form. Recent polls show Thune up by five points," Jon Lauck writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).
     "The Thune surge was sparked by a television commercial, no mean feat in a state deluged by statewide ads for races from the U.S. Senate to the School and Public Lands Commission. The ad shows Thune in his hometown of Murdo, population 679, with his father, a World War II vet who built the local church, and his mother, the high-school librarian. It shows him in front of Thune Hardware, making an NBA-range three-pointer with his former Jones County high-school basketball coach, slinging hash at the diner where he used to cook, and ends with his college-sweetheart, wife, Kimberly, who's from Doland, population 306.
     "The ad is as South Dakota as Mt. Rushmore and pheasant hunting, and easily cut through the monotonous din of tit-for-tat prescription-drug and Social Security ads," said Mr. Lauck, who teaches government at Dakota State University.
     Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson fared poorly in a recent debate, and a Democratic vote-stealing scandal has broken out on the state's Indian reservations.
     "Johnson's wheels have come off and John Thune has stayed the course and is back on solid ground. Republicans should start sleeping better," Mr. Lauck said.
     
     Republican hordes
     The liberal People for the American Way, a leader in attacking President Bush's judicial nominees, has produced a TV ad that implores voters to keep the Republican hordes from overrunning Washington.
     Here is the text of the ad, titled "One Vote Away":
     "Today the White House and the House of Representatives are controlled by the right wing of the Republican Party.
     "And with just one more vote they'll control the U.S. Senate.
     "Their unchecked political power would be devastating for a woman's right to choose, our environment, Social Security and corporate accountability.
     "And could guarantee a Supreme Court controlled by the far right for decades.
     "With your family's future at stake, should one political party have this much power?
     "Your vote for senator counts on November 5th."
     
     Disco Roy
     Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes' re-election campaign "has been in an uphill battle in the black community," Atlanta talk-radio host Robert "Rob" Redding Jr. reports.
     It's part of the fallout from Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney's loss to Denise Majette in the Aug. 20 Democratic primary, Mr. Redding says in his online journal, www.reddingnewsreview.com. Some blacks say Mr. Barnes, a Democrat, failed to support Mrs. McKinney or her father, state Sen. Billy McKinney, who also was defeated in his re-election bid.
     The governor apparently didn't mend too many fences when his campaign recently ran a radio ad targeted toward black audiences.
     The ad featured a rhythm-and-blues jingle with the chorus: "If you want a leader who's brave and strong, vote for Roy Barnes, you can't go wrong."
     Black listeners to Mr. Redding's show on WAOK-AM said the Barnes disco ad was offensive: "What this type of targeted political ad is saying about its audience is that they are not too intelligent," one caller said.
     Callers "thought the ad was condescending," Mr. Redding said. "It sounds like, 'Come eat watermelon and fried chicken with me.'"
     The Barnes campaign quickly pulled the ad from WAOK, but denied the change had anything to do with listener reaction. "It was just a change in rotation," a Barnes spokesman told Mr. Redding.
     
     Hawaii Four-O
     "The popular 1970s police drama 'Hawaii Five-O' showcased the nation's 50th state and attracted millions of tourists to its shores. This year, political reporters have been trooping to Hawaii to see if the entrenched 40-year-old Democratic Party machine — dubbed 'Hawaii Four-O' — will finally lose a race for governor and open up the Aloha State's politics," John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.
     "When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it had been ruled for decades by a tiny Republican elite of sugar and pineapple plantation owners. That soon changed as Democrats, mostly led by Japanese-American war veterans like Sen. Daniel Inouye, gradually gained power. In 1962 voters gave William Quinn, the state's first — and last — Republican governor, the boot. Since then, only two Republicans have been elected to Congress or statewide office in Hawaii," Mr. Fund said.
     "That may change this year. Republican Linda Lingle, the former mayor of Maui, is running for governor and is favored in the polls. When she ran four years ago she led in polls for most of the campaign only to lose by 5,254 votes to incumbent Gov. Ben Cayetano. Despite a host of malfunctioning voting machines and credible allegations of illegal aliens voting, a recount confirmed Mr. Cayetano as the winner."
     
     Grim prospects
     "The board of the Schumann Foundation (president, Bill Moyers) met on Thursday to settle on a strategy that would allow one of its most expensive projects — the leftish American Prospect magazine — to survive in the current political climate," Christopher Caldwell writes on the Web site of the Weekly Standard (www.weeklystandard.com).
     "Perhaps the Schumann Foundation wants to cut costs so that it can continue to shower largesse on Tom Paine.com (Executive Director, John Moyers, Bill's son).
     "It was rumored all week that the cuts at the TAP would be draconian. Our sources say that virtually everyone at the Boston office has indeed been cashiered and the magazine will indeed put out fewer issues.
     "No one of any political tendency rejoices at the death throes of a magazine — just as no one rejoices to see the left wing in this country so humorless and fun-phobic.
     "All TAP writers who have shown a twinkle of wit, a scintilla of originality, a dash of political incorrectness, the slightest inclination to rethink anything — Joshua Micah Marshall, Joshua Green, Laura Secor, Nicholas Confessore, for starters — have either fled or been fired. They've abandoned the precincts to the deft but distracted Robert Reich, and that dinosaur of American liberalism, Robert Kuttner."
     
     Rotten cheese
     A top Wisconsin state senator was charged yesterday with extortion and official misconduct in a scandal that has tarnished the state's reputation for squeaky-clean government, the Associated Press reports.
     Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala said that he would resign his leadership post once his fellow Democrats selected a new leader, which they are scheduled to do Monday. But he said he will remain in the Senate while battling the charges.
     "I will fight these allegations, because they are not true," he said.
     Mr. Chvala is accused of demanding campaign contributions for himself and other Democrats and threatening to block legislation if lobbyists failed to deliver. He is the second cheese state legislator charged this year.
     The 20 felony counts against him include extortion, misconduct in public office and filing false reports with the state Elections Board. The most serious charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The combined penalty for all charges is 90 years.
     
     Honorary member
     Bill Clinton, once famously described by author Toni Morrison as "our first black president," is being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame as an honorary member.
     The former president will be the first nonblack recognized in the hall's 10-year history. He is expected to attend tomorrow night's event, the Associated Press reports.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or by e-mail: gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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