Playing 'duopoly'

John McCaslin
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Posted: Feb 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Despite overwhelming odds against his candidacy, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has decided once again to run for the presidency, this time as an independent. He argues that the policies and beliefs of Democrats and Republicans are far too similar - "a two-party duopoly."

Of course, the closest Nader has ever come to being picked as president was during the contested 2000 election. On that now-historic December day outside the U.S. Supreme Court, or so this columnist observed, a lone man stood silently yet directly between warring sides for Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, clutching his homemade sign: "Give it to Nader."

RADLIBS AND RADCONS

"Radcons" is the nickname Clinton Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich gives "radical conservatives who have taken over the public agenda."

"There is no 'vast right-wing conspiracy,'" Reich will acknowledge in his upcoming book, "Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America."

Rather, Radcons "have risen by means of a highly efficient, self-reinforcement system designed to shape public opinion and politics."

Reich obviously mailed his publisher his book manuscript before liberals in recent days unleashed their own "public agenda" designed to shape opinion and politics, not the least being legalized same-sex "marriages."

Henceforth, "Radlibs."

OFFICIAL RATS

Federal bureaucrats are complaining that "an army of rats" has invaded a U.S. government office complex in revitalized Silver Spring, Md.

"For the last two months, rats have chewed through electrical cables, phone cords, speaker wires, LAN cables - even phone books," says one Department of Commerce insider. "The only safe place for (official correspondence) are metal filing cabinets."

Uncle Sam in recent years has also dealt with "Pentagon pests" - hundreds of "rats that roam the basement" of the Pentagon - and when President Clinton occupied the White House, rodent experts had to be called in to "assess the (unpleasant) rat situation."

THUMBS UP

Before they rush out to see Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ," President Bush Monday encouraged the nation's governors to see another timely movie about persecution.

"You ought to see the movie 'Osama,'" Bush told governors during a White House meeting. "It talks about what it was like to be a woman in Afghanistan during the Taliban era. ... (T)hat movie will bring home what it means to be liberated from the clutches of barbarism."

Another big fan of "Osama" is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who recently hosted a private screening of the film at the Washington office of the Motion Picture Association of America. Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it's the first entirely Afghan film shot since the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban regime, which banned all movies as contrary to Islam.

Inspired by a true story, the film features a 12-year-old girl whose mother loses her job when the Taliban closes the hospital where she works. With her husband and brother dead, she is unable to leave the house without a "legal companion," so the mother disguises her daughter as a boy. The girl then becomes known as Osama.

CLEAN DECK

It took long enough, but the Federal Communications Commission is no longer accepting perks from influential lobbying groups in Washington.

So when all five members of the FCC attend the National Association of Broadcasters' annual convention in Las Vegas in April, they won't do so on NAB's dime.

"(U)nlike last year, the trip is being paid for by the FCC, not the broadcasters," says a spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity.

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell ordered an end to the questionable practice of accepting free travel and entertainment from industries it regulates after condemnation by Congress and the public.

NO KETCHUP JOKES

Aside from being a professor of communications at the University of Missouri-Columbia, William Benoit is considered one of the nation's leading experts on presidential campaigns.

His latest research: Whether in debates, TV spots or direct-mail brochures, Republicans historically make more character attacks and fewer policy attacks than Democrats.

"No crystal-ball effect is perfect," Benoit says, "but based on the past performance of presidential candidates - including President Bush's 2000 campaign messages - it seems likely that Republicans will attack more on character than Democrats."

Why is this important?

"This is potentially important because as a group, presidential candidates who attack more on character than their opponents are significantly more likely to lose elections," he says. "Emphasizing character in one's attacks does not guarantee a loss, but it makes a loss more likely."

QUACK, QUACK

As far as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is concerned, the issue is not whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia should recuse himself from a case involving his hunting partner and friend, Vice President Dick Cheney, but about ensuring justice for all.

After learning about a recent duck-hunting trip taken by the pair of Washingtonians - and subsequent comments about hunting by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - PETA President Ingrid Newkirk fired off a letter to every member of the Supreme Court, asking that they extend justice to ducks, doves and other animals by not shooting them.

"(H)ow can we preach against violence or, indeed, rule on issues concerning violence, discrimination, and prejudice against others while conducting violent acts for pleasure and picking on those to whom we do not exactly relate?" the letter reads.

Up until now, the issue was whether the duo's hunting trip last month - on the heels of the court's agreeing to hear a White House appeal involving the vice president's energy task force - jeopardized Scalia's impartiality in the proceedings.

But PETA's ears perked up when Ginsburg, a feminist appointed by President Clinton, commented that she's enjoyed deer meat from Scalia's previous hunting expeditions.

"Justice Scalia has been more successful at deer hunting than he has at duck hunting," she went so far as to point out.

FALL DEPORTATION?

The natives are getting restless over President Bush's proposal to grant legal residency to as many as 12 million illegal immigrants.

The president says he wants to let illegals stay in the United States under an unprecedented "guest-worker" program to match "willing workers" to jobs that "Americans don't want."

But polls show what "Americans don't want" is the president's plan.

In fact, citizens have flooded the mailboxes of their congressmen, complaining that Bush's plan is just fancy talk for yet another amnesty - rewarding foreign lawbreakers with legal work status, an election-year sellout of principles.

Down in Georgia, opponents of the Bush amnesty plan recently turned out for a protest at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Signs brandished by the demonstrators proclaimed such sentiments as "Gringos for America" and - in tribute to the Republican congressman from Colorado who's the leading opponent of Bush's proposal - "Write In Tom Tancredo."

Grass-roots conservatives have pinned blame for the amnesty plan on the president's top political strategist, and one protester in Atlanta carried a sign offering this helpful suggestion:

"Deport Karl Rove."