Tall tales

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 09, 2002 12:00 AM
"It is important to be prepared" for tall tales, Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot tells GOP candidates in a memo we obtained. "Democrat attacks may be so outrageous or inaccurate that candidates may consider a response to be unnecessary," says the chairman. "Inaccurate attacks left without a truthful and timely response, however, can take on a life of their own and suggest a possibility of accuracy. "We expect this to be a growing trend as Election Day approaches and we must address attacks thoughtfully, but forcefully and quickly," he says. Already, Racicot notes, Democrat ads focusing on Enron and Social Security have been pulled in North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, Mississippi and Connecticut because of inaccuracy. BEYOND CANDIDATES Another election cycle is upon us, and for die-hard political junkies who not only like to track congressional races but ballot measures throughout the country, the Initiative and Referendum Institute has come to your aid. It's compiled a 46-page pre-election, "great reading for anyone who wants to know about drugs, gambling and politics - it's all in there," says institute president M. Dane Waters. We downloaded our copy from www.ballotwatch.org. COUCH POTATOES Leaders of the National Education Association had better switch off their television sets and start studying Reality 101. Last week, after viewing NBC's prime-time show "The West Wing," the national educators took the incredible step of issuing a news release headlined: "NEA backs President Bartlet's call for school quality." The episode featured Bartlet's plea for more teachers and better-funded public schools. Reaction on Capitol Hill? Republicans, if nobody else, are "shaking their heads," says David Schnittger, communications director for the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "What's interesting is the NEA doesn't give credit to the actual president - President Bush - for actually delivering a whopping 38 percent increase in federal funding for teachers this year as part of the No Child Left Behind Act," Schnittger reminds this column. Under those reforms, he notes, federal funding for teacher-quality programs this year jumps 38 percent - by $787 million - to $2.85 billion to help train, recruit and retain quality teachers. Bush's support "is far more than was ever provided under President Clinton," Schnittger adds. In its news release, the NEA also applauds the fictitious President Bartlet for pointing out in his weekly address to the nation that there's "too much mayhem in our culture - and we can do something about that." HEADED FOR DIVORCE "In 1987, my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Here it is 15 years later, so we're now 65 years along on our journey, but how much farther along are we in the appropriations process? Well, let me say again, this is the worst record for progress in the appropriations process since 1987." -- Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) referring to White House and Senate foot-dragging on appropriations bills BALLS OF FIRE Chuck Leavell proved he is one of the most talented piano players in the world when he performed with the Rolling Stones last Friday at FedEx Field, but he also displayed an uncanny talent as a lobbyist when meeting with Western Caucus Chairman Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Leavell and his wife, Rose Lane, own a large tree plantation in Georgia. He's a vocal supporter of active forest management being pushed by the Bush administration and Western lawmakers, the lack of which is partly blamed for the destruction of 6 million acres of woods by wildfires this year. His message to Congress: "The no-management plan spells disaster. It's a travesty." Leavell also asked lawmakers to repeal the estate tax, which he said nearly ruined his family. Leavell was prepared to deliver a 15-minute speech and play two songs on the only piano that could be located on Capitol Hill, but rolling votes in the House shifted the forum to a more personal and casual sit-down conversation. However, as soon as lawmakers left the meeting - which, by the way, was closed to the press - the rock star turned to staff and said, "Now that the heavies have left the room, let's rock 'n' roll." One lawmaker did drift back in time to hear Leavell pounding out "Great Balls of Fire" to the delight of his exclusive audience. "Sounds like our current forest policy," the lawmaker said. MIXED ECONOMY Stealing a line from her husband's successful campaign for president, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken to proclaiming: "It's still the economy, stupid." That has some believing she's accusing President Bush of being behind the country's economic malaise, much the same way Bill Clinton blamed President George H.W. Bush in 1992. However, and though it's not an overwhelming majority, most Americans believe that the recent corporate-accounting scandals - not the president or his administration - are to blame for the economic ups and downs. Sixteen percent of adults polled by Arlington-based 411 Communications offered the "corporate-accounting scandals" as the primary reason for the weak economy, said 411's president, Chris Ingram. That was followed by 11 percent who cited the "lingering effects of the September 11th tragedy" and another 11 percent who blamed "both parties in Congress and President Bush." HER TURN Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who had the unpopular task of certifying a winner in the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, is author of a new book, appropriately titled "Center of the Storm" (WND Books). She is a Republican candidate for Congress, and the once-embattled Harris acknowledges that such adversity is inescapable, "but amazingly it can become quite beneficial." "There is no school quite like the University of Hard Knocks," she says. "No situation teaches us more. Nothing provokes us to greater maturity, focuses us upon the things that matter most, and sharpens our sense of purpose like hardship. "Suffering either makes us or breaks us," Harris explains. "Everyone suffers. But some people suffer well. Principled leaders do not enjoy difficulty more than anyone else. But they do view hardship as an opportunity to advance and to prove their mettle." 'ONE TOUGH COOKIE' The
Heritage Foundation has awarded Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) its highest honor - the Clare Boothe Luce Award - and praised him as a "dedicated, unflinching and articulate advocate of conservative policy and principle." "As the award's citation says, Sen. Helms is 'one tough cookie,'" Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner observed. "But because of that toughness, our country is a much better place," he added. "Giving him this award today is our way of saying thank you from Heritage, the conservative movement and many throughout the nation." Helms, 80, was expected to receive the award in the spring, but he underwent heart surgery just days before the presentation.