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Flash Traffic

Flash Traffic | Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "NEA: School bully," June 22, 2002

EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman says she never read the controversial report her own agency released concluding that human activities are largely responsible for global warming. Mrs. Whitman also claims she didn't even know the study existed or was posted on the EPA's website. Yet the report landed her boss-President Bush-in hot water among environmentalists and conservatives for flip-flopping on the issue after withdrawing from the Kyoto Treaty limiting greenhouse gases in major industrialized countries. "I knew about it when I read it in the paper," explained the liberal former governor of New Jersey. So who's running the EPA? That's what White House officials plan to get straight with Mrs. Whitman before she represents the United States at a UN summit on the environment in Johannesburg, South Africa, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4.

Three out of four Americans approve of the job President Bush is doing, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll reward him with a Republican Congress. The latest Gallup poll reports a dead heat: 46 percent of registered voters plan to vote for the Republican candidate for Congress, while 45 percent expect to vote for the Democrat. Issue by issue, Republicans dominate on national-security concerns (by margins of about 2 to 1 on military/defense, terrorism, and foreign-affairs issues) and on economic issues (by about 10 percentage points). But Democrats maintain a strong lead on domestic policy-Social Security (10 points), education (6 points), and the environment (21 points)-and on issues they've created: prescription-drug coverage (14 points) and patients' bill of rights (13 points). One area where President Bush receives especially high marks is for his newly proposed Department of Homeland Security. Some 72 percent of Americans approve of the idea (20 percent disapprove). Three out of four Americans believe the new Cabinet agency will be effective in preventing future acts of terrorism.

President Bush has yet to veto legislation coming out of the Congress. A $31.5 billion anti-terrorism bill larded with pet projects like $2.5 million for mapping Hawaiian coral reefs (do terrorists hide in those reefs?) looks like a prime candidate. The bill is more than $4 billion over what the White House requested. Most Senate Republicans went along for the ride, helping the bill pass 71 to 22. Given how dramatically government spending is rising under his watch, he would be wise to draw a line in the sand and impose some fiscal discipline on a Senate that has none. A new study by the National Taxpayers Union finds just how serious the problem has become. This year, says the NTU, House Democrats have sponsored legislation that would increase net new federal spending by some $262 billion a year, an 800 percent increase in the cost of the House Democratic agenda over the last session of Congress. House Republicans, by contrast, have sponsored net new spending of $19.8 billion a year. Senate Democrats are pushing some $88 billion in net new annual spending, compared to Senate Republicans pushing for an $18.7 billion increase.

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Alan Keyes is drawing dismal ratings on MSNBC and may soon find himself shifted to a daytime slot. (The network hired Pat Buchanan, but he's likely to land in daytime, hosting a political talk show with former CNN Crossfire host Bill Press.) That will leave no distinctly conservative host in MSNBC's new prime-time lineup debuting on July 15. Meanwhile, "America's News Channel" will not have a single news program in prime time. The News with Brian Williams is moving exclusively to CNBC.

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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