Beltway Beat: Divided democrats

Posted: May 20, 2002 12:00 AM
Democrats are champions of wind power as a clean and efficient energy source - except when it's blowing in their own back yard. If two senators could ever be stuck between a rock and well, a windmill, that's where you'll find outspoken environmental stewards Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, both Massachusetts Democrats. A consortium called Cape Wind Associates - wouldn't you know a large contributor to Kerry's campaign as he tests the presidential waters of 2004 - has proposed erecting 170 windmills, each 40 stories tall, across the waters of Nantucket Sound. A wind farm, if you will, barely eight miles from Kennedy's beloved Martha's Vineyard. Not so fast, says Kennedy, who in one of his rare, quieter moments sought and received approval in Congress for Uncle Sam to enter the sound and have a closer look at what detrimental impact the otherwise environmentally sound cluster of windmills might have on the environment. "That's the kind of analysis we need," Kerry informs the Boston Herald. "People are raising the issue of whether there is a federal role here." What the two Democrats aren't saying is that if/when the windmills get churning, they would handle half of the Massachusetts coastal area's growing energy needs. One senior Bush administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: "This proves once and for all that Sen. Kerry offers nothing more than hot air when it comes to wind energy." DIVIDED REPUBLICANS The question of illegal immigration has divided Republicans into two camps, and if the party's own GOPUSA poll is any indication, "the open-borders extremists in the Bush camp are going to have their heads handed to them in the next elections." And not by Democrats, warns the immigration-watchdog group ProjectUSA, but grassroots Republicans. "There is the Wall Street Journal, corporate-funded Republican National Committee, George Bush open-borders camp," says ProjectUSA. "And then there is the Congressman Tom Tancredo camp, which advocates a time-out from mass immigration while we fix our broken system, a reduction of immigration to sustainable levels, and an end to illegal immigration." Tension between the financial interests, the watchdog group explains, which seek to maintain or increase mass immigration numbers, and the public as a whole, which favors a more modern and centrist policy, "will be most visible in the Republican Party." The GOPUSA poll ending May 14 saw 67 percent of participants saying that "Illegal aliens should be deported because they broke the law in order to get here," while only 2 percent agreed that amnesty should be granted to certain illegal aliens covered under President Bush's proposals. Meanwhile, ProjectUSA applauds Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department for implementing a system to track foreign students who are supposed to be in the United States attending classes. "In the wake of Sept. 11, even the education industry, which rakes in about $14 billion per year in foreign-student tuitions, saw the writing on the wall and dropped its long-standing opposition to this sensible and modest proposal," says the group. In the meantime, it predicts, the nation will continue to debate the larger question of what to do with more than a million foreign students already in the United States, "including 50,000 - mostly in the hard sciences - from the hostile and belligerent nation of China. The government of the People's Republic, which even now has weapons of mass destruction trained on American cities, actually pays the tuition for many Chinese students in the U.S." HORSE RACE Republicans have only a slight approval edge over Democrats going into the November elections, with tax cuts and wasteful spending topping terrorism as leading factors in choosing a congressional candidate. A new poll of 1,000 registered voters by Wilson Research Strategies, made available to this column, finds that 53 percent view Republican performance on Capitol Hill as "excellent or good," vs. 41 percent who say "not so good or poor." Democrats' job ratings, at the same time, are viewed positively by 49 percent, with 44 percent responding negatively. These numbers can't be overly reassuring to either party. In recent days, for instance, Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot warned that Democrats were "only six seats away from a majority in the U.S. House," and he reiterated the devastating defection of Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords to independent status, which threw control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. "These are encouraging numbers for Republicans on Capitol Hill. However, they don't necessarily mean the GOP will sweep November elections," says Chris Ingram, principal of Wilson Research Strategies. "For Republicans, the key will be to keep these numbers strong by talking about things Americans care about most - issues like tax relief, addressing terrorism and education. And for the Democrats, the challenge will be to put a dent in those numbers without appearing too negative." As for the single most important issue, 21 percent of those polled cite cutting taxes and wasteful spending, while 16 percent are concerned with strengthening national defense and fighting terrorism. Other issues in order: improving public education, creating jobs, affordable health care, the environment, protecting Social Security, fighting crime and drugs, reforming welfare, and growth and transportation. ANSWER YOUR QUESTION? "I'd like to have a copy of the picture. I'm going call and see if I can get one. It's a great picture." -- Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R- Miss., when asked by reporters Wednesday if he felt it appropriate for Republican congressional campaign committees to be using a photograph of President Bush taken on Sept. 11 to raise money for the GOP. FATHER KNOWS BEST For months now, perhaps more than any other lawmaker, the mellifluous Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., has sought to identify the single, incontrovertible, possibly politically deadly link between former Enron chief Kenneth L. Lay and the Bush White House. Wednesday was no different, when Hollings not only helped convene a Senate hearing into the failed Enron Corp., he handed Lay a new nickname and new best friend. "I don't know whether they tried to avoid association with 'Kenny Boy,'" Hollings said. "I know the president said, 'Who is he?' "He's the one," reminded Hollings, "that flew the president's father (former President George Bush) to the inauguration, in case he wants to know who he is. We've got all the evidence in the Lord's world that he was his best friend."