Capital Briefs: June 16-20

BLACK VOTERS Back OBAMA-CLINTON (SORT OF): For all the charges of a racially-insensitive campaign by Hillary Clinton (and especially by husband Bill) before her exit from the race last week, a just-completed Rasmussen Poll shows that a plurality of black voters nationwide want her as Barack Obama’s running mate. According to the survey, 45% of African-Americans support Clinton for Vice President, 35% are opposed, and 19% are undecided. Among white voters, the same poll finds almost the opposite: 47% oppose Clinton on the ticket, 32% think it’s a good idea, and 21% are unsure. One of the more intriguing fiindings in Rasmussen’s research was that “Most Democrats (58%) who earn less than $60,000 a year believe Clinton should be Obama’s running mate. Just 43% of upper-income Democrats agree.”

STRICKLAND STRIKES HIMSELF FROM VP LIST: One Democrat on the list of vice presidential possibilities for Barack Obama has ruled out becoming the Illinois senator’s running mate even if he is asked. Appearing on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” last week, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said of running with Obama: “Absolutely not. If drafted, I will not run, if nominated I will not accept, and if elected, I will not serve.” In contrasting his own flat ruling out of the second spot on the Democratic ticket with the position of others who say they aren’t interested but would consider running with Obama, former Hillary Clinton supporter Strickland also said that Obama’s chances of carrying Ohio are “somewhere around 5 on a scale of 10.” Strickland’s political adviser Aaron Pickrell, who managed Clinton’s winning primary campaign in Ohio, will now run Obama’s campaign in the state this fall.

RULING Will OPEN FLOODATE FROM GITMO TO U.S. COURTS:  The In a stunning 5-to-4 decision last week in Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled that suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts.   Many legal scholars seconded the opinion of former Bush White House Associate Counsel Bradford Berenson that Boumediene is a step toward “transforming foreign terrorists held in military custody into civilian criminal suspects and affording them rights of access to domestic courts that they have never enjoyed through millennia of human history.”  The idea of having a terrorist such as 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in a court in the continental U.S. would be “less desirable and less safe for everyone,” according to Berenson. 

DEMINT ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Steering Committee who is fast emerging as a conservative to watch in Congress, last week unveiled a new, unique political action committee: the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF). The committee, DeMint told HUMAN EVENTS, will support only “candidates who believe in bedrock principles of national security, limited government, and traditional family values.” Historically, PACs controlled by lawmakers are used to win support for leadership elections by helping all Republicans. SCF, as one DeMint associate told us, “will pick a handful of Senate candidates who are solid conservatives — such as Bob Schaffer in Colorado or Steve Pearce in New Mexico — and give them the maximum donation. Jim doesn’t care about winning friends or running for leadership. He wants to rebuild his party and advance conservative policy.”

Considered one of the top fund-raisers for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, DeMint has raised more than $10,000 for SCF in two weeks. SCF will also engage in independent expenditures.

DEAN BREAKFAST A SCREAM: More than 40 Washington reporters attended a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last week for Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, and more than a few joked about asking the former Vermont governor to repeat his famous scream that marked the end of his presidential bid in 2004. No one did, but Dean demonstrated that he is still in rare form. In a lively session, Dean explained why he wore an American flag pin (“I want to remind the Republican Party they don’t own the flag”), charged that the “problem with the Republican Party is that they value their ideology above what’s good for the country and their hold on power,” and, while not endorsing the move to impeach President Bush led by Democratic Representatives Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)and Robert Wexler (Fla.), volunteered that “I’m not embarrassed in any way that this [impeachment] is being discussed.” Dean got into a snit with syndicated columnist Mark Shields, who asked whether Barack Obama may be violating the spirit of the campaign finance laws by declining public financing and thus avoiding the spending ceiling in the fall election. Noting that Obama has not made that decision, Dean shot back that “I don’t agree with the way you framed the question,” that “it is wrong and unfair to criticize Sen. Obama if he should do this [because] it’s one thing to do it if you are going to get a gazillion $28,500 contributions. It’s a different thing if your donor base is three million people.” Citing the Democrat-sculpted global warming bill (that included a windfall profits tax) that was stopped in the Senate last week, HUMAN EVENTS’ Political Editor John Gizzi asked Dean why he felt that measure would not raise gas prices. “We don’t think it would raise the price of gasoline,” Dean shot back, adding that the killing of the Democratic measure “is an example of John McCain’s hypocrisy. His party is killing the energy [sic] bill while he goes on the “Today Show” to claim he’s going to do something about the price of gas and energy and global warming. It’s nonsense.”

Pressed by Gizzi as to why he didn’t think a bill with a windfall profits tax would raise the price of gasoline, Dean insisted that “when it’s been used in the past, it hasn’t. I can’t remember when it’s been used, but I know we were still getting money from it until relatively recently.” (The Windfall Profits Tax, on the books from 1980-88, brought in $80 billion — far less than the projected $393 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.)