Washington Prowler

Trash Talk Moments

White House fears reactions to latest economic numbers. Rep. McKinney fears nothing and everything.

By 8.1.02

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GROSS DOMESTIC APPROVAL
"If we can make it through this week without a huge dustup, we'll be okay," says a White House Capitol Hill operative.

That's the thinking as the monthly estimate of Gross Domestic Product and Friday's unemployment figures dribble out. The GDP numbers were pretty depressing on Wednesday, about a percentage point below the pre-release estimate, and the White House is steeling itself for poor news on the unemployment front. "But in the end, if we can survive this month and move into August without a lot of terrible news, we should be seeing light at the end of the tunnel," the operative says.

The White House worried most that terrible numbers would have the Washington press corps and economic and financial writers working away through August on doom and gloom reports. "Of course, they could do that anyway, but the numbers wouldn't give them a lot of hard ammunition," the White House source adds.

The thinking on Pennsylvania Avenue and on Capitol Hill is that the worst of the corporate collapses is over and the economy and employment numbers should improve moving into the fall. "If we can all get out of town and back home, things will smooth out," says a Senate Republican staffer. "Our bosses are all going to have to answer a ton of questions once they get there, but it's better than having to sit in Washington and watch the spinning and posturing."

Both White House and Capitol Hill staffers expect that Republican approval numbers should move up a bit, if only because Bush intends to travel in August to campaign for Republican candidates and press his agenda. "Unless there is a huge screwup somewhere, he's going to be looking pretty good for the next few weeks," says a House Republican leadership staffer. "And if he looks good, we look good."

RADIO DAZE
Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney, she of the "George W. Bush knew in advance of the World Trade Center attack and did nothing about it" conspiracy theory, remains in good form.

As might be recalled, McKinney faces a potentially embarrassing primary challenge from another African-American woman, who is poised to knock off McKinney before a Republican gets a chance, much as Artur Davis knocked off Rep. Earl Hilliard in neighboring Alabama last June.

One would think that given the serious nature of the challenge posed by DeKalb County Judge Denise Majette, McKinney would button up, keep her mouth shut and run like an incumbent uninterested in the competition. Well, one would be wrong.

McKinney let loose this week with an outrageous radio ad. "Abuse of power is sometimes an angry, out-of-control cop beating up a teenager in California," the ad says. "Sometimes it's an angry, out-of-control judge like Denise Majette."

The California cop reference is meant to liken Majette's actions on the bench to those of Southern California police officer Jeremy Morse, who in early July was caught on videotape slamming a handcuffed 16-year-old African American onto the hood of a police car.

Majette's supposed crime? In a 1998 case she sentenced a woman to two days in jail and fined her $1,000 for speeding. Before the ad ran, McKinney had implied that Majette was a stealth Republican candidate and she questioned Majette's racial heritage.

McKinney's seat was thought to be a safe one, and she wasn't expected to face a serious Republican challenger. Meaning if Majette wins the Democratic nomination, it's assumed she too will coast to victory. "Believe me, there are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who wouldn't cry if McKinney were out of there," says a DNC source. "One less headache sounds good to me."

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