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political buzz from washington | by Joel C. Rosenberg

Issue: "Brothers up in arms," Oct. 26, 2002

A controversial new Republican TV ad entitled "Baghdad Babs" targets vulnerable Long Island Democrat Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and Hollywood left-winger Barbra Streisand and is drawing national attention to a race that the GOP hopes becomes a pickup. Streisand's camp is indignant. But it was Streisand who made herself a political issue in recent weeks by sharply attacking President Bush. "Barbra Streisand defends Saddam Hussein then rips George Bush as a 'frightening ... dictator,'" the ad begins. "The Post calls her 'Baghdad Babs.' But Carolyn McCarthy calls her a contributor. After McCarthy voted to slash Defense $2 billion, Streisand wrote her a fat check. Now McCarthy is silent as her liberal pal bashed our president. That's wrong. Dr. Marilyn O'Grady fully supports the Bush war on terror. McCarthy doesn't." O'Grady, an ophthalmologist who backs war with Iraq and calls for capital gains tax cuts to revive the economy, is challenging McCarthy in New York's Republican-leaning Fourth Congressional District. The ad is having an impact, causing McCarthy to distance herself from the liberal Hollywood icon. A statement posted on Streisand's web site blasts the ad as "egregiously fabricated" and "deceitful," but mistakenly refers to Saddam as an "Iranian" dictator, rather than Iraqi. In a speech at a Democrat fundraiser on Sept. 29, Streisand said, "I find George Bush and Dick Cheney frightening. Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft frightening.... I find bringing the country to the brink of war unilaterally five weeks before an election questionable, and very, very frightening." She also cited a joke Bush once made about being a "dictator" as "very revealing, a taste of things to come." "Maybe that's the way things look out in Hollywood, but back here in Long Island we support our president," says O'Grady. "It's just an outrage to profit off Streisand's Bush-bashing. McCarthy should give back every dime of [Streisand's] tainted money and apologize to President Bush."

Embattled Missouri Democrat Sen. Jean Carnahan finds herself in hot water after comments she made about the war on terrorism backfired. Carnahan told CNN she is now the "number one target of the White House" and that since the Bush team "can't get Osama bin Laden, they're going to get me." Republicans shot back quickly, objecting to the idea that the president cared more about politics than justice for the 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11. "For a sitting United States Senator to declare the ongoing war on terrorism a failure is no less than despicable," Ann Wagner, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, told the Kansas City Star. Carnahan has little room for error. A new Zogby poll finds GOP candidate Jim Talent pulling ahead of her (see p. 7).

Despite a killing rampage by a sniper-or team of snipers-that has terrorized Washington-area residents, Jesse Jackson and actor Danny Glover are helping launch a new campaign to abolish the death penalty. The two will be keynote speakers at an Oct. 24-27 conference in Chicago, organized by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Organizers plan to press for federal legislation in 2003 outlawing capital punishment. "We would oppose the death penalty for the sniper or team of snipers because it won't prevent people in the future from engaging in homicidal activity," NCADP spokesman Brian Roberts tells WORLD. "I just don't know who it would provide justice for. The people are already dead." The issue could affect the Maryland governor's race. Incumbent Democrat Gov. Parris Glendening imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in May, and he was strongly backed by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. But with sniper killings now terrorizing Maryland-and Townsend running neck-and-neck against pro-death penalty Republican Rep. Bob Ehrlich-the Townsend campaign seems squeamish about looking soft on crime. "The Lt. Governor's position is clear," Townsend spokeswoman Kate Phillips tells WORLD. "She supports the death penalty. She also supports the moratorium on the death penalty because there have been doubts about the implementation of the death penalty over the years.... But yes, she would support the death penalty for the sniper when he's caught."

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