Washington Prowler

Patty Revisits Osama

Now Sen. Murray is even in more trouble. Plus: Zell of a good guy.

By 1.9.03

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THERE'S NO GETTING OVER HIM
Democratic leaders were fuming on Thursday after colleague Sen. Patty Murray revisited her embarrassing sympathetic comments about Osama bin Laden. Murray stopped to speak to reporters after spending time with her 13 female Senate colleagues yesterday, and was asked about the Bin Laden comments.

According to a Democratic Senate leadership staffer, Murray had received advice from several colleagues to avoid returning to the controversial topic, and to let the furor over her comments die down. Instead, Murray walked head first into the bin Laden mess all over again. She said that her comments had been twisted and misconstrued. But she didn't say they were also inaccurate.

Recall that on December 18, Murray spoke to a group of students and was asked why bin Laden found support in many Middle Eastern and African nations. Murray said of the terrorist, "He's been out in these countries for decades building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities and people are extremely grateful. He's made their lives better. We have not done that."

In fact, the United States has been the leading aid donor to several of the countries where bin Laden's following has grown in the past few years.

"She's already on thin ice with her performance on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last year," says a DSCC staffer, noting that as leader of the committee she'd promised her caucus would widen its majority control of the Senate. "And she's up for re-election this time around and already in trouble. People up here are pulling their hair out over this."

The Democratic concern is that Murray's wet kiss to Osama will continue to haunt her politically at home, where the White House is hoping to lure either Rep. Jennifer Dunn or Rep. George Nethercutt to challenge her in 2004. Dunn is by far the more appealing of the two. Thus far she is said to have been noncommittal to White House and RNC suggestions that she make a play for the higher office.

Even before her gaffe, Murray was targeted by Republicans as highly beatable in the next election cycle. "What bothers us is that she seemed to understand how this thing could stick to her for the next 18 or 20 months," says the Democratic leadership staffer. "All she had to do was keep her mouth closed. But with some of these guys [and gals], they're just incapable of doing that."

ZELL OF A GOOD GUY
Republicans were doubly cheered by Democratic Sen. Zell Miller's decision to retire from the Senate in 2004. "Not only do we have a better shot of picking up the seat," said a Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee staffer, "but Miller is a free man now."

Republicans think that Miller, unfettered by concerns about re-election fundraising and the like, is more likely to be a more vocal supporter of the Bush Administration agenda. "We need him on the economic stimulus package, and this announcement may make it possible for him to more readily support us if we can bring a satisfactory package to the floor," says a Senate Finance Committee staffer.

Miller has long been a target of Republican attempts to jump parties, but he has tamped down such talk. Instead, he has stayed with the Democrats, crossing over to vote with the GOP on issues he felt strongly about.

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