Inside Report: Fooling the voters
9/2/2000 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak
FOOLING THE VOTERS
WASHINGTON -- Misleading Democratic television ads in competitive districts against four Republican candidates -- Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas, Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana, former Rep. Dick Zimmer of New Jersey and Rep. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky -- have been pulled back.
A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) ad for Rep. Rush Holt claimed that Zimmer, when he previously held the northern New Jersey district seat, "never voted for a single education spending bill -- not one" and "voted to eliminate the Department of Education." When Zimmer presented evidence that these statements were untrue and threatened legal action, television stations rejected the commercial.
The DCCC commercial for former Rep. Scotty Baesler trying to regain his eastern Kentucky seat erroneously accused Fletcher of backing a $1 billion cut in education when, in fact, he had voted against President Clinton's proposed spending increases. Baesler's explanation after the ad was pulled: "I know we seem to stretch the truth occasionally. Everybody does."
NO POWELL BOOST
It is highly unlikely that George W. Bush's presidential campaign will get a boost from an announcement that Gen. Colin Powell would be his Secretary of State.
In a CNN interview online Wednesday, Bush knocked down speculation about pre-election announcement of prospective cabinet members (suggesting that this procedure might be illegal). Republican strategists had been anxious to unveil Powell's announcement, and some urged Bush to do it during the Democratic convention to reduce the favorable bounce for Al Gore.
According to his friends, Powell long ago ruled out a pre-election announcement. The most he would accept was what Bush said about the general Wednesday: "He indicated that if he was offered a job, he might seriously consider it. And for that, I was most grateful."
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, on the road urging re-election to Congress of fellow Republican members, was furious when he read a Wall Street Journal report that he was abandoning most of the GOP tax program.
While Hastert issued a statement from the campaign trail calling the article "inaccurate," that did not fully reveal his irritation. He and top aides suspect that several such newspaper stories originated in the Speaker's office.
A footnote: Hastert met with President Clinton Thursday trying to negotiate an agreement that would prevent a government shutdown, which could be fatal to Republican election chances. Other GOP leaders so distrust Clinton that they see no point in such conversations.
Rep. James Traficant of Ohio has further antagonized his colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus by going to Arkansas to campaign for a vulnerable incumbent Republican congressman, Rep. Jay Dickey.
Traficant's position is that he considers Dickey a friend whose party affiliation is irrelevant. But Rep. Tom Davis, the Republican House campaign chairman, told this column he "would not be surprised" if Traficant publicly supports more Republican candidates before the election.
Leading House Democrats previously threatened to revoke Traficant's seniority for committee slots and perhaps kick him out of their caucus if he goes through with his promise to vote for Republican J. Dennis Hastert's re-election as Speaker of the House. His defection increases from six to seven the gain in seats needed for the Democrats to take control of the House.
ARABS & LIEBERMAN
With Democratic politicians fearing an Arab backfire against the first Jewish candidate on a national ticket, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is circulating a "brief" boosting Sen. Joseph Lieberman as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate.
Michigan Democratic leaders were privately concerned when Lieberman was selected. They fear it could alienate the state's big Islamic population, a critically important swing vote in Michigan.
AAI's document notes pro-Muslim positions by Lieberman. It contends that he "personally took a step to make sure that Arab American Democrats were brought into" the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992. AAI's president is James Zogby, a longtime Democratic activist and national convention delegate from the District of Columbia.