Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "Humanity Under the Microscope," Dec. 8, 2001

After chief Bush strategist Karl Rove asked Hollywood to enlist in the war effort, some celebrities are heading overseas. Gene Hackman, star of the new war film, Behind Enemy Lines, recently screened the film for the crew of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea. Jay Leno plans to entertain U.S. troops in the Middle East this month. Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon, all stars of the new Jerry Weintraub film, Ocean's Eleven, announced a trip to a U.S. military base in Turkey this month. DVD copies of the film will be distributed at the base and sent to 11 U.S. warships. Vice President Dick Cheney doesn't have much time for movies and popcorn. But the veep did recently take the time to watch Behind the Veil, the chilling documentary about women under Taliban rule that was aired on CNN. Produced by Saira Shah, a British journalist whose father is from Afghanistan, the film was shot using hidden cameras and includes footage of a public execution of women before a cheering crowd at an Afghan football stadium. "He was very moved," says Mary Matalin, adviser to the vice president. "He watched it at home with his family and was outraged at the treatment of women and their children."

Republicans have won another special election, this time in Arkansas. The seat opened up earlier this year when President Bush tapped Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, to head the Drug Enforcement Agency. Democrats had hoped to grab the open seat by playing up the recession and ripping President Bush's plans to reform Social Security. But Republican John Boozman, an optometrist, defeated Democrat Mike Hathorn handily, 56 percent to 42 percent. Boozman supports allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in their own IRA-like investment accounts. He's also a supporter of school vouchers and Second Amendment gun rights. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Dick Armey campaigned in the state for Boozman; President Bush penned a supportive letter direct-mailed to voters.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert will head to Japan in January, his first foreign trip since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Hastert wants to thank Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Japanese legislators for their country's new and historic assistance in prosecuting the war on terrorism. For the first time since the end of World War II, Japanese naval forces are engaging in a military conflict. Despite great controversy within Japan, three ships of the country's Maritime Self-Defense Forces set sail Nov. 25 for the Indian Ocean. They will join three other Japanese spy ships in the region jointly gathering intelligence information with U.S. forces. According to a recent survey, only 41 percent of Japanese support using their military for any reason other than self-defense, though that is up sharply from just 25 percent support before 9/11.

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It's official. Republican Tom Kean won't challenge Democrat Bob Torricelli in his U.S. Senate race in New Jersey. Kean was under intense pressure from the White House to jump into the race, and many Republican operatives in Washington were sure the popular former New Jersey governor would take the plunge. Internal GOP polls show former presidential candidate Steve Forbes second only to Kean as a strong competitor against Torricelli. But neither Forbes nor Rep. Frank LoBiondo is expected to run. This leaves the GOP without a convincing candidate, and GOP strategists scratching their heads.

Is Al Gore planning to run for president in 2004? There are signs he may not. The former vice president did set up a political action committee in October to help Democratic candidates in 2002. But he's done virtually no political spade work himself, and top past Gore advisers like campaign manager Donna Brazile, chief of staff Ron Klain, and others are unsure about signing up for another grueling Gore campaign. "It's significant that many in the Gore team are not signed up with him," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "It reflects some uncertainty about his future prospects." Adds Democratic campaign guru James Carville: "There's a lot of maneuvering, but not a lot of signing up. I'm sure there's a lot of people saying: 'Keep your powder dry, don't do anything until you talk to me.'"

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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