Newt's warning

Robert Novak
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Posted: Mar 27, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Called on for advice by a group of conservative Republican House members, former Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested a coming political disaster on Medicare unless the GOP launches "an entirely new dialogue."

Gingrich's one-page summary to his former colleagues warned that the increased estimates of Medicare costs caused by President Bush's recently enacted legislation "are going to cause an explosion among fiscal conservatives and give the Kerry campaign new ammunition."

To counter this threat, Gingrich called for a "transformation" of heath care that would cut by $500 billion the estimated $5 trillion to be spent by the federal government over the next decade. He advocated "preventive care, early detection and best outcomes-based practices."

CLARKE'S CONTRIBUTIONS

Former counterterrorism aide Richard Clarke called himself a registered Republican in criticizing President Bush, but his only listed political contributions during the two most recent election cycles have gone to former colleagues running as Democrats for Congress.

In 2002, Clarke contributed $2,000 to Steven Andreasen, who headed arms control policy in the Clinton administration's National Security Council (NSC) and was running for Congress in Minnesota. Andreasen was defeated by Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht.

This year, Clarke has given $1,000 to Jamie Metzl, another Clinton-era NSC staffer. Metzl is running for the House seat from Missouri left vacant by the retirement of Democratic Rep. Karen McCarthy and so far has raised far more money than any other candidate.

CONFERRING WITH CLARKE

Prior to his testimony Wednesday before the independent 9/11 commission, Richard Clarke conferred privately with one of its Democratic members, according to commission sources.

These sources say Clarke huddled with Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. Roemer's subsequent questioning of Clarke contained a few barbs but consisted largely of open-ended questions giving the witness a chance to criticize President Bush. Roemer confirmed he had met "a couple of times with" Clarke, as he said he had with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CIA Director George Tenet. "Nobody coaches Dick Clarke," Roemer added.

One reason why House Speaker Dennis Hastert unsuccessfully tried to curtail the commission's activities on schedule was the presence of Roemer, his former congressional colleague. Hastert regards Roemer as a partisan who attempts to project a bipartisan image.

KERRY'S DIVIDENDS

Sen. John Kerry's campaign Web site has wiped out past information about his record, including a 2002 speech opposing the income tax on dividends. He changed his position after President Bush in January 2003 proposed repeal of the dividends tax.

In a speech prepared for delivery to the City Club of Cleveland on Dec. 3, 2002, Kerry said: "We should attempt to end the double taxation of dividends." That position by the prospective Democratic presidential nominee goes back to 1990 during his first Senate re-election campaign in Massachusetts, when he claimed pro-business credentials by saying: "I supported ending double taxation of dividends."

However, Kerry never has actually voted to end double taxation of dividends. Last May 23, he voted against partial repeal of the dividends tax pushed by Bush.

BIG MONEY WEEKEND

Big money fund-raisers for the Bush-Cheney campaign have been invited to a luxury resort in Georgia owned by George W. Bush's national finance chairman, to golf and to dine with the president and vice president on successive evenings, April 1 and 2.

It will take place at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, in Greensboro, Ga., an hour and a quarter driving time east of the Atlanta airport. Co-owner of the property is Mercer Reynolds, the former Bush business partner who resigned as ambassador to Switzerland to head the Bush-Cheney campaign's fund raising.

Invited, along with their spouses, are Rangers (who have collected at least $200,000 for the campaign), Pioneers ($100,000) and Mavericks ($50,000 raised by people under age 40). That amounts to about 500 people dining with Vice President Dick Cheney April 1 and with President Bush April 2.