9/11 politics

Robert Novak
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Posted: Sep 09, 2006 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON -- The unusual Democratic outrage over ABC-TV's "The Path to 9/11" film to be shown Sunday and Monday reflects private concern in the party that the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack can reverse the political tide running against Republicans.

The highly partisan Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York composed a tough letter to Robert A. Iger, CEO of Walt Disney (ABC's parent company). The letter cites two scenes from the program casting doubt on the Clinton administration's legacy in fighting terrorism.

Slaughter added as co-signers of the letter three senior Democrats who would join her as committee chairmen if Democrats win control of the House. They were Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, senior member of the House; Rep. Jane Harman of California, a top party spokesman on national security; and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, a left-wing leader.

DEMOCRATIC INFIGHTING

In expectation of a Democratic takeover of the House in this year's elections, advocates of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Rep. John Murtha are engaged in a fierce backstage battle for their candidate to become majority leader.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would be unopposed to become speaker of a Democratic-controlled House, is considered certain to vote for Murtha against Hoyer. Murtha managed Pelosi's successful campaign for party whip against Hoyer in 2001, which provided the stepping stone toward her current dominance in the House. Hoyer associates say Pelosi is working behind the scenes for Murtha, but Hoyer told this column he sees no such activity by her.

Although both Hoyer and Murtha once were considered part of the Democratic Party's relatively moderate wing, Murtha's aggressive opposition to U.S. intervention in Iraq has made him a favorite of the left.

A REPUBLICAN BREAK

Republican strategists figure they benefited from a little political break Aug. 28 when U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in Washington agreed to a joint motion by defense and prosecution lawyers to postpone the sentencing of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff, who in January pleaded guilty to corruption charges, had been scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing before Huvelle last Wednesday. The reason stated by the Justice Department in agreeing to Abramoff's request for a delay was his cooperation with prosecutors, resulting in the conviction of former Bush administration officials.

The only Republican congressman who so far has become directly involved in the Abramoff investigation is Bob Ney of Ohio, who has not been charged with any offense but decided not to seek re-election. Nevertheless, GOP campaign managers did not relish the publicity of the Abramoff sentencing as midterm election campaigns began.

FUND-RAISING DOUBLE

Sen. Mike DeWine, who has been aggressively soaking up Washington lobbyist money for his uphill re-election campaign in Ohio, has added an unprecedented campaign finance twist: bringing in another endangered Republican senator for his fund-raiser.

During the August recess of Congress, lobbyists received an invitation for a $1,000-a-ticket "sunrise breakfast" (8 a.m.) in Washington Sept. 14 to "honor" DeWine. Listed as a "special guest" is Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana. DeWine and Burns are considered two of the Republican senators most likely to be defeated in November.

The breakfast will be held at Charlie Palmer's on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, a favorite restaurant among lobbyists. The listed hosts are the political action committees of EarthLink, an Internet service provider, and the National Mining Association.

ANTI-HORSE SLAUGHTER

With scarcely two weeks of work left before Congress breaks for the midterm election, House leaders scheduled time to consider the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

The measure, which would ban killing horses for human consumption, passed the House Thursday and was sent to the Senate. Many American horse owners pick up money on the side by exporting horses or horsemeat to Europe.

The anti-slaughter bill is sponsored by two Republicans: Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and John Sweeney of New York.