Going after Bush

Posted: Jul 06, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Kerry's frontal attack on conduct of the war in Afghanistan has opened the way for a Democratic onslaught on President Bush after Congress returns from its Fourth of July recess. On NBC's "Meet the Press" June 23, presidential hopeful Kerry attacked U.S. military tactics in Afghanistan and failure to apprehend Osama bin Laden. That ended the moratorium on Democratic criticism of Bush as a war leader. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, also a possible presidential candidate, followed with a similar attack. The senators are reflecting talk in Democratic circles on Capitol Hill that the post-Sept. 11 honeymoon for the president should end and it is time to go on the offensive. SNIPING AT PITT Harvey Pitt, the embattled chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is under fire not only from Democrats but also areer officials in his own agency. Democratic politicians, seeking a mid-term election issue, claim ex-corporate lawyer Pitt is soft on corporate fraud. The SEC professionals whisper that Pitt is dictatorial, difficult to deal with and has not gotten a handle on the agency during his 11 months in charge. Influential Republican power brokers consider Pitt a political liability who should be thrown overboard, but that is not the way President Bush treats his own appointed officials. GORE IN MANHATTAN Just before his political meeting last weekend with nationwide financial contributors, Al Gore solicited his New York City backers in an unpublicized fund-raiser at the Manhattan apartment of supermarket (Red Apple Group) tycoon John Catsimatidis. The host himself was not present, and well-heeled New Yorkers who were there had to endure oppressive heat because the air conditioning in the luxury apartment was out of order. Making matters worse, Gore was two hours late for his scheduled 6 p.m. appearance. When he finally showed up, the former vice president previewed his performance in Memphis a day later. Gore indicated that if he runs for president in 2004, he "will let it all hang out" with much greater vigor than in his 2000 campaign. Invited guests who stayed long enough to hear Gore complained that he was too loud, particularly considering the stifling heat. TEXAS SENATE SURPRISE Surprising Washington strategists from both parties, polls show the Senate's most vulnerable Republican seat is in Texas. The Democratic candidate, former Dallas Mayor Ronald Kirk, is increasing his edge over Republican State Atty. Gen. John Cornyn. Kirk's early lead for the seat given up by retiring Republican Sen. Phil Gramm was written off by Republicans as the result of the hotly contested Democratic primary and Cornyn's uncontested nomination. But Kirk's lead has been holding and reaching the high single digits. A footnote: In seeking to secure their one-vote Senate margin, Democrats also see another surprise possible takeover in Maine where former State Sen. Chellie Pingree is waging a strong campaign against Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Nevertheless, the latest Democratic poll gives Collins a 12-point lead. SEEKING CHARLIE'S ANGELS Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, seeking Democratic control of the House that would give him his long coveted chairmanship of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, is asking supporters for contributions up to $25,000 for a July 31 party at the Tavern on the Green in Manhattan. The event celebrates his 72nd birthday and launches a "major effort" to aid Democratic candidates in key districts. Money raised goes to Rangel's National Leadership Political Action Committee, which collected $282,327 last year and $254,384 so far this year while aiming for much more. Records show the National Leadership PAC thus far contributing to 20 Democratic House candidates. Only 10, however, are engaged in some 35 closely contested districts: Reps. Dennis Moore of Kansas, Bill Luther of Minnesota, Jim Matheson of Utah, Jim Maloney of Connecticut, Ronnie Shows of Mississippi, Mike Ross of Arkansas, Karen Thurman of Florida, David Phelps of Illinois and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, plus former Rep. Jill Long Thompson in Indiana.