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Flash Traffic | Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "Will Kurds stand alone?," June 1, 2002

President Bill Clinton and his top advisers were offered Osama bin Laden on a silver platter several times, but refused to order Mr. bin Laden's capture. That's the explosive charge made by Mansoor Ijaz, a Muslim businessman who tried to help broker the deal between the Sudanese government and the White House. "In the months leading up to the August 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, there were several opportunities" for the Clinton administration to capture bin Laden, Mr. Ijaz said on Fox's Hannity & Colmes. He says the Sudanese intelligence chief wrote directly to the director of the FBI's East Africa division and then to FBI Director Louis Freeh himself. Mr. Ijaz had personal conversations with key administration officials, but no action was taken. Mr. Ijaz, a Democrat and contributor to the Clinton-Gore campaigns, also says Sudan offered to help President Clinton capture bin Laden in 2000.

The House passed a welfare reform plan (222 to 198) that builds upon the landmark law twice vetoed by President Clinton but finally signed in 1996. The Washington Post says it "contains every major idea the GOP has advanced this year for revising the welfare system," from funding state programs that encourage marriage and premarital sexual abstinence and continuing to deny welfare to legal immigrants, to giving the states more freedom to improve their poverty-fighting programs. Liberal Democrats oppose the bill and say they'll try to shoot it down in the Senate. They'll likely haul out old arguments. In 1996, Jesse Jackson warned the GOP plan "will plunge 1 million children into poverty." The Children's Defense Fund said the GOP plan would "make more than 1 million additional children poor, a majority of them from working families, increasing child poverty nationwide by 12 percent." Then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) warned the Republican plan would impoverish 2.6 million Americans. But the evidence shows otherwise. A new report by Robert Rector and Patrick Fagan of The Heritage Foundation finds 4.2 million fewer people living in poverty today than in 1996. There are also 2.3 million fewer children living in poverty.

The New York Times Magazine in 1995 called him "perhaps the best political fundraiser ever." Now Ted Welch has just signed on to raise money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Mr. Welch was recruited by Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, the NRSC chairman this cycle, a rising star in his own right who some believe has presidential ambitions for 2008. Mr. Welch will work closely with Haley Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee who is also helping the NRSC raise funds. True, Mr. Welch is a moderate, close to two other Tennessee Republicans, Lamar Alexander and former Sen. Howard Baker. But the battle for the Senate will very likely be the most expensive in history, and Republicans are looking for all the fundraising help they can get.

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President Bush will not abandon personal retirement accounts, despite Democratic plans to attack congressional Republicans on Social Security this fall. Privately, Mr. Bush tells friends he loves the idea of pivoting the program from pure social insurance to an instrument of wealth creation. Publicly, he praises those who generated the idea of investment-based Social Security reform. In a White House ceremony on May 9 that received little attention, the president honored Milton and Rose Friedman. He also huddled with a small but highly influential group of free-market economists who began their careers at the University of Chicago and whom Mr. Bush now counts as key friends and allies, particularly on the Social Security issue. Among them: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan; top White House economic advisor Larry Lindsey; Dr. Gary Becker; and Jose Pinera, the father of Social Security reform in Chile. "We have seen Milton Friedman's ideas at work in Chile, where a group of economists called the 'Chicago Boys' brought inflation under control and laid the groundwork for economic success," Mr. Bush told the group. "We have seen them at work in Russia, where the government recently adopted a 13 percent flat tax with impressive results. We have seen them at work in Sweden, which has adopted personal retirement accounts. We have seen them even at work in China, where the government conceded long ago that Marxism was, in their words, 'no longer suited' to China's problems."

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg


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