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Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "Progress in Hollywood," March 23, 2002

Sen. Hillary Clinton remains coy about her interest in running for president in 2004. But a new Zogby poll shows her closing the gap with former Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic nomination. Gore still leads with 27 percent support, but Clinton is not far behind with 22 percent. Sen. Tom Daschle-only recently mentioned as a possible contender-runs third with 8 percent. Clinton's numbers have held fairly constant since March 2001 when she had 20 percent support. Gore's numbers, however, have plunged in the past year from a high of 44 percent. Only 23 percent of Democrats nationally believe Gore deserves the nomination, while a whopping six in 10 believe the party needs "someone new."

Former GOP presidential candidate and governor of Tennessee Lamar Alexander will run for the U.S. Senate, seeking the seat being vacated by Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). Thompson's 38-year-old daughter unexpectedly died of a heart attack in January, prompting the devastated senator to retire at the end of this year. "I simply do not have the heart for another six-year term," said Thompson. "Serving in the Senate has been a tremendous honor, but I feel that I have other priorities that I need to attend to." White House strategists believe Alexander-whose approval rating in the Volunteer State is 66 percent-has the best shot at retaining the seat for the GOP and hope to avoid a primary. But Tennessee Republican Rep. Ed Bryant is considering a run and has until April 4 to decide. Al Gore, who used to occupy the seat, says he's not interested in reclaiming it for himself.

The arrival last week of student visas for two of the 9/11 terrorists-six months to the day after the suicide attack-underscored the rift among the congressional GOP over immigration. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) led a nearly successful rebellion of Republicans in the House, falling just one vote shy of defeating a White House-backed bill to grant amnesty to eligible illegal immigrants. (To qualify for amnesty, the immigrants must have a close relative or a job sponsor who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. They must pay a $1,000 fine for entering the country illegally and an additional application fee.) Tancredo said he believes politics-White House outreach to Hispanics-trumped policy considerations. "No threat to American security can be taken lightly any longer," he said. "Their proposal not only rewards lawbreakers, it has the potential to allow criminals, ranging from petty thieves to suicide bombers, to remain in America legally." The bill passed the House 275 to 137-one vote better than the two-thirds margin needed for approval-but only 92 Republicans voted for the Bush bill, while 123 opposed it. Such deep division within the GOP may be a sign of trouble to come.

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"There is no such thing as a right to a live-birth abortion," declared Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), widely regarded as the abortion industry's go-to guy in the House. "A baby born alive is a baby, a human being ..." No, Nadler hasn't switched sides. He made a tactical decision to drop his opposition to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which passed the House last week by voice vote. The measure extends legal protections to infant survivors of botched abortions. Nadler dismissed debate over the measure as a "show for anti-abortion extremists" and said the bill "changes nothing" because all the state laws already regard babies born alive as human. Actually, the bill would clarify federal law in response to rulings in federal court and the Supreme Court-which struck down state laws against partial-birth abortions-that threaten the government's ability to protect born-alive infants. The legislation would apply regardless of such considerations as lung development, chances of long-term survival, whether the baby survived an abortion-and whether the child's parents want him. The "born-alive" bill is stalled in the Senate.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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