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Flash Traffic

Flash Traffic | Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "Mounting a defense," May 25, 2002

Former Vice President Dan Quayle made headlines-and punchlines-by praising MTV phenom Ozzy Osbourne. Why? If fictional single-mom Murphy Brown sent a negative message (and she did) to young people, how does the real Ozzy Osbourne send a positive one? Ozzy built his career on abusing alcohol and drugs. Now he has a TV show riddled with so much profanity it's a veritable bleep-fest. Yet Mr. Quayle said the Osbournes might be a bit "dysfunctional," but at least they're "intact" and he found them "entertaining."

"Quayle [says] that when teenagers see Ozzy Osbourne it sends them the right message about drugs," mocked Jay Leno. "Think about it. Dan Quayle never did drugs, he's middle-aged and unemployed. Ozzy did drugs for 30 years, lives in a $10 million house, has his own TV show and a $3 million book deal. What's the message? I'm confused." Mr. Leno's not the only one. Many conservatives are confused as well. It's a free country. People can watch him if they want. But was it really necessary for Mr. Quayle (or President Bush, for that matter) to praise a man who symbolizes rampant drug use and the "F" word? Ten years ago, Mr. Quayle took a courageous stand against Hollywood liberalism. Now he's sucking up to it. That's no gaffe. That's just dumb.

Al Gore once raised campaign cash in the Lincoln bedroom and a Buddhist temple. Now he's describing the fundraising efforts of President Bush and the GOP as "disgraceful." Mr. Gore's specific gripe: The Republican Party's using as a fundraising tool a photo of President Bush on the phone from Air Force One with Vice President Cheney during the 9/11 crisis. "While most pictures are worth a thousand words," Mr. Gore said, "a photo that seeks to capitalize on one of the most tragic moments in our nation's history is worthy of only one-disgraceful." Former Clinton-Gore fundraiser Terry McAuliffe-now chairman of the Democratic National Committee-hyperventilates that Bush fundraising efforts are "grotesque." Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle are also on the attack. "I think that clearly there would be a very serious ethical violation, were White House photographers, or any government property, involved in this affair," says Sen. Daschle. Republican strategists are smiling all the way to the bank. They say all this carping is sour grapes and signs of increasing frustration among Democratic leaders unable to gain political traction on any major issue right now. They also note that the GOP just raised a record $33 million in one night in a black-tie gala in Washington. The most the Clinton-Gore team ever raised in a single night was $26.5 million.

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Dispatches from the campaign trail-

IOWA: Rep. Greg Ganske is 15 points behind liberal Democrat Tom Harkin in his race for the Senate, despite help from an ad campaign run by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). He's got conservative Bill Salier nipping at his heels for the upcoming June 4 primary. Now the well-funded Sen. Harkin is running TV attack ads, forcing Rep. Ganske on the air with ads featuring President Bush.

COLORADO: The NRSC is also running ads for embattled GOP Sen. Wayne Allard. There, it's working. A new poll finds Sen. Allard pulling away from fierce Democratic challenger Tom Strickland, 49 percent to 33 percent.

MINNESOTA: Private polls indicate Sen. Paul Wellstone-arguably the most liberal Democrats in the Senate-is trailing St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman by between 4 and 9 points. In February, the race appeared neck-and-neck. Question: Will the new farm bill help Sen. Wellstone prove he can bring home the bacon while discouraging fired-up conservatives?

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill paper, reports that Sen. John McCain's chief political strategist, John Weaver, has signed on to work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a bid to help Democrats take over the House this fall. The New Republic noted on April 29 Mr. Weaver's switching his voter registration from Republican to Democrat.

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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