You’d think that with a fairly weak — and clearly divided — state Republican Party as his main adversary, California Gov. Gray Davis wouldn’t yet be in panic mode. But apparently something is triggering his fear factor.
State Democratic Party staffers say Davis has spoken to former President Bill Clinton, and that the two will appear together in a series of appearances within the next month or so in southern and northern California. “Probably a couple in L.A., and something in San Francisco and Sacramento,” says a party staffer. “Inasmuch as Clinton is an identifiable national leader, it can’t hurt Davis any more than he’s already hurt himself.
Clinton, though, is not the most popular politician in the state, as he might have been five or six years ago. While statewide polls have fluctuated over the past year, many have shown on occasion that President Bush would have a shot at actually winning the state’s popular vote at any given time. This is a marked change from the Clinton-Gore era, when Republicans were growing as extinct as the California golden condor.
Apparently, though, Clinton can still bring in some cash with his appearances, and lack of fundraising prowess appears to be a Davis concern. While he can still generate funds, there is concern among his advisors that as the recall vote draws near, wishy-washy Hollywood types won’t pay out to Davis the way they used to.
Clinton’s appearance may also be the result of an attempt by Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe to take some semblance of a leadership position in the recall imbroglio. McAuliffe, who is mounting a huge anti-Bush media campaign, has been criticized by other DNC types for not paying attention to the nitty-gritty political needs of the party around the country.
Sen. Bob Graham, who not coincidentally is running for president, pulled a word scramble worthy of fellow southerner Bill Clinton. While campaigning up in New Hampshire, Graham told supporters that President Bush’s use of British intelligence to buttress his own administration’s intelligence on Iraq’s nuclear capabilities — because that is exactly what Bush and his team did as Graham knows, so that must be what he is talking about, right, Senator? — were transgressions that “warrant [Bush’s] impeachment.”
Graham later backpedaled and said he was not calling for Bush to be impeached, because impeachment wasn’t an issue he as a senator could influence, as the process begins in the House.
Graham’s comments are raising some serious questions about his position on the joint congressional intelligence committee looking into September 11, as well as the position he held on the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to the 2002 elections. In both capacities, he and some of his staff have been privy to much of the inside information related to the U.S.’s war on terrorism and Iraq.
For example, on the debate over Iraq’s nuclear weapon capabilities, Republican Senate staffers say that despite Graham’s protestations and statements on the campaign trail that Bush and his team have been lying about that capacity, Graham has heard testimony and seen intelligence over the past five years that confirms Iraq’s ability or desire to obtain nuclear materials and eventually to use nuclear weapons.
Also, Republicans on the Hill have been saying for months that Graham and his staff were leaking investigative data from the joint 9/11 committee, which is due to release its report sometime this week.
“Graham knows he’s out there lying about this stuff. He knows the truth and he’s not being forthright about it,” says a Republican Senate leadership staffer. “We warned the White House about this kind of thing happening several months ago, but they didn’t take it seriously. Now look at what they have on their hands. A ranking senator running against them who can spout off on anything he wants to.”
White House staffers argue that it would be helpful if Republicans on the Hill were a bit more proactive in shooting such inaccurate information down. “Look at Porter Goss over on the House side,” says a White House staffer about the joint 9/11 committee’s co-chairman. “Last week he held a press conference and could have put a lot of this talk to rest or at least given reporters some strong language to counter the Democrats. Instead he just walked away.”
Such infighting has led some Republicans to call for some kind of summit inside the party leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue within the next month to help focus the party on what is shaping up to be a highly divisive fall political season.