Washington Prowler

Cheers and Jeers and No More Tax Cuts

Reading Clinton right and Daschle wrong. Is there a Russ in our future? Israel's reservoir of Good Bill. Plus more Supreme jitters.

By 2.6.02

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ALL QUIET ON THE CLINTON FRONT
The boos and catcalls continue to rain down on Bill Clinton and his wife in inopportune moments. Much was made of the jeering he and Hillary endured during the large fundraisers they attended after 9/11, particularly in Madison Square Garden, where fire and police personnel nearly jeered them off the stage. Mr. Clinton was embarrassed again on Super Bowl Sunday, which he spent in New York. In town for the Davos confab, he and his staff organized a Super Bowl party at his Harlem digs to coincide with the former prez's big screen participation in the special patriotic segment shown on Fox before the game. But party revelers who paused to hear Clinton's utterances also heard loud boos from the Louisiana Superdome that overwhelmed any cheering from the crowd. According to a Clinton staffer who attended the party, the sound on three television sets inside the Harlem offices was briefly turned down to prevent further potential embarrassment.

HEARING WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR
After Majority Leader Tom Daschle went before the cameras yesterday to announce he was pulling the plug on the Bush stimulus package in the Senate (and withdrawing a Democratic alternative), the White House thought he was doing so in order to jump-start negotiations on a compromise. Says a White House aide who tracks Capitol Hill legislation, "Daschle needs some good news for his party."

But according to several Democratic leadership sources, Daschle wants nothing to do with a stimulus package. "He has polling data that is telling him Americans don't want tax cuts or credits," one of the leadership people says. "This is all about positioning for 2002 and beyond. Daschle is in full election year mode."

The data Daschle is using comes from an extensive poll commissioned by the DNC. The poll surveyed more than 1,000 respondents in 22 congressional districts that are considered "up for grabs" this year. The survey showed a majority of uncommitted voters didn't support tax cuts, even if those cuts might be a help to them directly. "We paid a lot for that survey and it's going to be our blueprint for the next year," says another Democratic leadership aide. "It has to be. We have nothing else to hold on to."

RUSSELL MANIA
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina may be flavor of the moment for Democrats hopeful of taking back the White House in 2004, but another second-tier senator is looking to steal some of Edwards' thunder. According to several of his staffers, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has set up an ambitious national speaking tour before Democratic grass roots groups that began last month in Florida. With the Enron dustup touching on his pet issue: campaign finance and election reform, he's become that much more popular on the circuit and has plans to travel to Iowa, New Hampshire, and California in the coming weeks. "He's done some polling and his name recognition is zilch," says a DNC fundraiser. "But he's talking about things that are topical and he makes a good presentation. The little old ladies love him."

A Feingold aide says his boss hasn't discussed what his future plans are. "He's young enough and ambitious enough that he might make a run at Bush in 2004 even if it appears hopeless. Remember, that is what Clinton was thinking back in '92, run just to lay the groundwork for the future. And look what happened there. Senator Feingold could find himself in a similar situation. Better him than Edwards."

SUPREME MATTERS
The White House is telling senior Republican Senate staffers that they expect two Supreme Court retirements this summer. "They are saying John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor," says a Senate staffer. Stevens, a Ford appointee, is 81; O'Connor, the first female justice and a Reagan appointee, is 71. Both names have appeared on any number of possible Court retirement stories in the past year. Other rumored Supremes looking to jump include Chief Justice William Rehnquist (exhaustion, bad back, wants a life), Antonin Scalia (wants to make more money) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (health).

"I don't think the Justice is interested in retiring," says a former O'Connor clerk. "Her health problems are largely behind her and she's enjoyed the past year immensely, what with the book she has written and some of the cases the court is handling." While no one in the White House has spoken with any of the justices about their future plans, one Senate aide says that White House strategists have spoken of wanting O'Connor or another "conservative" judge to retire first, so that Democrats would in some small way have to give Bush a nod toward his first appointment to the court. "If it were Stevens, Democrats would put up a huge fight to block any conservative," says a Judiciary Committee staffer. "With O'Connor or Scalia going, placing a conservative in that slot would be a slightly easier fight."

DIRTY POOL
But will it feature a nudist beach? Former President Bill Clinton has been crowing to friends and associates about one of the greatest honors bestowed on him. Israel is naming a reservoir in the Negev the "Clinton." Apparently, the construction costs were covered by private funds Clinton helped steer Israel's way, not to mention plenty of U.S. aid.

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