Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "Homeland insecurity," Nov. 10, 2001

Senate Republicans desperately need to hold on to New Hampshire next year to regain their majority. But they have a problem. Nearly half of Granite State voters tell pollsters they want to elect someone other than Sen. Bob Smith, the GOP incumbent. Rank-and-file Republicans are particularly dissatisfied, especially after Smith ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 1999, did poorly, quit the GOP, then rejoined the party to become chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Momentum is now building to persuade Smith to resign and allow Rep. John Sununu, son of the former White House chief of staff, to become the GOP nominee without a primary fight. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have just endorsed Sununu and will help him raise money. Sununu has hired John Zogby to do his polling. Zogby's first finding: 50 percent of Republicans favor Sununu in a primary, 20 percent favor Smith, and 29 percent are undecided. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is urging a post-war Marshall Plan-style reconstruction plan for Afghanistan after U.S. troops finish dismantling the Taliban government in pursuit of Osama bin Laden. In a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Gingrich declared, "We have to be generous … in 1945, we rebuilt Germany, Italy, and Japan. In 1953, we rebuilt South Korea [and] we should take the same attitude … country-by-country, starting with Afghanistan." A massive influx of U.S. aid, Gingrich said, is needed to provide Afghanistan "new irrigation, new health care, [and] new food" systems. His host, Heritage chief Ed Feulner, chuckled afterward and called the idea "Gingrichian hyperbole." He was also amused by a suggestion from the former Speaker for a national air-travel database utilizing retinal-scan technology to keep tabs on airline passengers and "everybody who works at an airport on a regular basis." Feulner said he appreciated Gingrich's "outside-the-box" thinking, but, "You know Newt. He throws out 110 ideas, 101 of which are fairly nutty and some of which are worthy of serious consideration." Washington's somber wartime spirits just got a big lift: NBA legend Michael Jordan is back. He's playing basketball just blocks from the White House. And Washingtonians couldn't be happier. No matter that Jordan's Washington Wizards won only 19 games last year or that MJ mustered only 19 points in a losing effort on opening night. Local fans are just jazzed that "Air Jordan" has landed in their midst. His Oct. 30 debut brought out a sellout crowd, over 200 foreign reporters, and a live BBC broadcast. Now the only thing harder to find than the "undisclosed location" of Vice President Dick Cheney is a ticket to see Mike work his magic. Tim Russert, host of NBC's top-rated Sunday-morning political interview program, says he would like to interview Jesus Christ on Meet The Press. Asked in the November issue of Washingtonian magazine which historical figure he would most like to meet, Russert said: "Jesus Christ. He was only on earth 33 years, and 2,000 years later we still live with Him and His teachings on a daily basis." Citizens Against Government Waste has fresh evidence to press its case against excessive spending:

  • Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I. Island) wants a $50,000 federal grant to study "the emotional toll" the 9/11 terrorist attacks have taken on Rhode Islanders.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is spending $30 million to pay for television commercials and a new website promoting "better services" from a fundamentally flawed and unreformed Medicare system.
  • The House just passed a bill called the "Virgin River Dinosaur Footprint Preserve Act" that would give $1 million to help the city of St. George, Utah, preserve rare paleontological resources.
  • If passed, the 10-year farm bill now moving through Congress will increase current agricultural subsidies through 2011 by $73.1 billion.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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