Inside Politics

Article excerpt

INTOLERANCE

While pundits and editorial writers urge Republicans to build a "big tent" that includes abortion pro-choicers, many in the Democratic Party continue to shun pro-life politicians like Rep. Michael Forbes, who recently abandoned the GOP.

So writes Mark Shields, a liberal Democrat whose syndicated column appears in The Washington Post.

"Politics deals in shorthand. It is better for any politician to be called a moderate than to be labeled an extremist," Mr. Shields noted.

"Now, maybe someone can explain why the minority of House Republicans who are pro-choice are referred to as `moderates,' while the minority of House Democrats who are pro-life are called `conservatives.'

"The orthodox Democratic position is not only `intolerant,' it is losing political support. A 1998 New York Times national poll found that in the past decade, `public opinion has shifted notably away from general acceptance of abortion' to the point where `nearly 80 percent support requiring parental consent and a 24-hour waiting period.' "

WHO'S BEATING WHOM?

DES MOINES, Iowa - Sen. Orrin G. Hatch disputes a new poll showing him trailing Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Utah, and offers this assessment of the Republican presidential race:

"If Bush and I went head to head in Utah, I'd kick his tail."

Wrapping up a two-day campaign swing in Iowa, where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season, the Utah senator was asked about a poll published by the Salt Lake Tribune.

In that survey, 30 percent said they favored Mr. Bush and 20 percent backed Mr. Hatch. Nearly a third had not made up their minds. The telephone survey was conducted for the newspaper by Valley Research. The poll of 511 persons statewide was conducted from July 12 to July 15 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Mr. Hatch said other media polls show him beating Mr. Bush in Utah.

"In the last poll, I was ahead of George Bush by quite a bit," Mr. Hatch said.

QUIET COMPENSATION

New York Times columnist William Safire laments "the era of no-fault government."

An example: "Remember that cruise missile President Clinton launched to take out a suspected terrorist target in Khartoum in Sudan? The pharmaceutical plant, Al Shifa, was destroyed with great precision," Mr. Safire noted.

"But it turns out somebody goofed. The plant really was making medicines, and we are now quietly paying the Sudanese compensation. We can presume no evil intent - not even a presidential attempt to change the subject - only a disastrous misjudgment."

NOT THE FIRST TIME

Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson charged yesterday that Vice President Al Gore's advance team "had to know" that officials were planning to raise the level of the Connecticut River last week for a photo-op in New Hampshire.

Mr. Gore and his advance team say they knew nothing about the massive release of water from a dam so the vice president's canoe would not run aground.

However, Mr. Nicholson said such efforts are standard procedure for the Gore team, as illustrated by an event in March 1996 in Colorado.

"Gore may claim there was `no controlling water authority' for the release of 4 billion gallons of water so he'd look good in pictures last week, but he's all wet," Mr. Nicholson said in a statement. "He `tapped the Rockies' for 96 million gallons for a photo-op in my home state of Colorado three years ago."

Mr. Nicholson added: "If Gore's advance team seriously believed he'd be able to row a boat in 6 to 8 inches of water, no wonder their campaign is sinking."

FORGET THE FAT CATS

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch says he will build a "skinny cat" network of small contributors to aid his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. …