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Flash Traffic

Flash Traffic | Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "The 2002 vote," Nov. 2, 2002

Former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Ralph Nader, and a slew of endangered Democrat candidates are attacking a conservative seniors group. Why? The 2-million-member United Seniors Association has launched a $20 million TV and radio ad campaign in the final weeks of the campaign to combat liberal attacks that Republicans are going to take away Social Security and deny prescription drug benefits. The ads must be working. Clinton on Oct. 21 charged the drug industry is using USA to "advertise under a phony name." Kennedy called USA "a tool of the drug industry-nothing more and nothing less." Nader warns that "during the last election, drug makers financed Citizens for Better Medicare" while "this election, they are renting the United Seniors Association."

USA chief Charlie Jarvis smiles, but refuses to back down. "This is a no-holds-barred fight to protect seniors against ruthless politicians," he told WORLD. "Scaring our grandmothers and grandfathers to grab their votes is unconscionable.... Citizens must aggressively confront the unconscionable tactics of political fear mongering and age baiting. Neither Bill Clinton nor left-wing storm troopers nor desperate politicians will stop us from leading this effort." Finally a conservative group fighting fire with fire.

It may be too late, but the GOP has finally launched feisty TV ads attacking former New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg's radical liberal record, first reported in WORLD. "Senator Frank Lautenberg supports the policies of the past," charges the ad. Lautenberg "voted seven times against the death penalty for terrorists ... and to freeze defense spending for seven years. No wonder Lautenberg is shamelessly ducking debates with Doug Forrester about today's world."

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Internal Republican polls show Georgia Democrat Sen. Max Cleland slipping and top GOP strategists now believe they suddenly have a serious shot at a Georgia pickup. (For a look at other close Senate races, see p. 22.) Republican Saxby Chambliss, they believe, is now down just 2 or 3 points. Why? Voters are finally beginning to look at Cleland's leftist record.

"I am in the sensible center. I am not an extremist," then-Senate candidate Cleland told the Chattanooga Free Press on Sept. 7, 1996. But the facts paint a very different picture, especially on hot-button social issues so critical in the Bible Belt. Cleland, for example, has a 100 percent approval rating from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. So do other far-left Democrats Ted Kennedy and Diane Feinstein. Cleland even voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion-not once but three times, even as fellow Georgia Democrat Sen. Zell Miller signed into law a state ban on such abortions in 1997 while serving as governor.

In 2000 and 2001, Cleland voted to allow federal funds to be used to distribute "morning after" abortion pills to young girls in elementary or secondary school-on school grounds-without parental consent.

On taxes, Cleland is also far to the left of the Georgia mainstream. Zell Miller was strongly in support of President Bush's pro-growth tax cut package, and under intense public pressure, Cleland eventually voted with Miller. But first Cleland voted 22 times to delay or derail the tax cuts before final passage.

On April 3, 2001, Cleland voted to reduce the Bush tax-cut package by $158 billion. On April 4, he voted for an $88 billion reduction of the tax-cut package. Later the same day, he voted for a $448 billion reduction. When that failed, he voted for a $100 billion reduction. On April 5, Cleland voted for a $70 billion reduction. When the Bush tax cuts finally passed, Cleland had the audacity to issue a press release saying, "Georgians need tax relief, and this tax package gives it to them."

If he had his way, Cleland would vote to increase taxes, not cut them. In May of 1997-just five months after taking office-Cleland voted on a Democrat amendment to eliminate $85 billion in tax cuts and instead to increase taxes by $30 billion over five years.

Cleland's supposed trump card? He is a wounded war veteran who claims to be strong on national security. But Cleland voted against President Bush's proposals to create a new Department of Homeland Security 11 times this year. New Chambliss ads are hammering this last fact home as the campaign enters its critical final days.

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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