CAN’T HELP MYSELF
Bill Clinton‘s high-living post-presidential lifestyle had the Bush Administration on edge as it shipped him off to East Timor as the U.S. representative to that country’s independence celebration. That’s because as the country’s lead delegate to the Asian nation, Clinton was traveling on the U.S. government’s dime.
The former president, though, was well behaved. He played golf during a layover in Hawaii and didn’t charge the green fees to government accounts — though it’s not exactly clear why he felt compelled to repay George Bush’s generosity in appointing him to head the delegation by meeting with Democratic donors on the island state and bad-mouthing the current administration.
“He didn’t do a lot of politicking,” a current aide insists. “The president understood that Mr. Bush had been nice enough to send him on this junket and he didn’t want to overstep his bounds by seeming ungrateful. Still, politics is politics.”
Some in the White House are growing increasingly concerned about the state of the Office of Homeland Security. Run by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the umbrella organization that is supposed to coordinate the nation’s law enforcement, intelligence and emergency preparedness operations in times of trouble, is facing charges of mismanagement. For example, several White House staffers who have been monitoring the Homeland Security website say that in the past two weeks there have been several occasions where the risk assessment for threat should have raised the color coding above “Yellow/Elevated,” a medium risk rating. “The rating should be high if we’re using Ridge’s definition for the code,” says a White House source. “What’s the point of having this thing if they aren’t going to use it properly?”
Some cabinet offices are complaining to the White House that Homeland staff isn’t communicating with them in a timely manner. The Treasury Department, especially, has raised the communications issues with White House chief of staff Andrew Card. Despite the growing numbers of critics of Ridge, though, all signs indicate that Bush will stand by his friend. “For now,” says another White House source.
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt was in San Francisco last week, touting his party’s chances in the next election. Speaking at a fundraiser hosted by Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi, Gephardt predicted voters would sweep the Democrats back into power on the strength of their newfound aggressiveness with the Bush Administration. But not everyone bought all the glad tidings.
One guest asked Gephardt what he thought of the California reapportionment that may net the Democrats only one new seat in the House. Predictions had Democrats gaining as many as five California seats after reapportionment. Even more troubling is the news that almost everyone in the state now give the Democrats no better than a 50-50 chance of holding on to the House seat currently being kept warm by Rep. Gary Condit.
Condit was knocked off in the primary last March by longtime political ally Dennis Cardoza, who will face state senator Dick Monteith in the fall. Cardoza currently holds between a seven to ten point lead, depending on whose poll you look at, a surprisingly low gap when you consider the Dems attempted to reshape Condit’s district by drawing in more traditional, liberal voters.
“We’ve done a much better job of getting voter registration drives up and running down there,” says a state Republican staffer. “We aren’t convinced we can win, but we’ve made that seat competitive when it shouldn’t have been.”
Gephardt, though, insisted that all was well in California, that the Democrats were going to “spend big” there in the fall, and that the House races nationwide would at worse be a wash for Democrats, who currently hold six fewer seats than the Republicans.