Anchors Aweigh

McCain Presses ‘Rollback’

The presidential campaign takes a new turn this week as the primaries pause in Michigan before hitting paydirt in New York and California on Super Tuesday. As the sloganeering and mindless mudslinging in the major parties begins to exhaust voters, the independent candidates (Ralph Nader in the Green Party and Pat Buchanan in the Reform Party) are staking out their turf. And, of course, there’s Ross Perot waiting in the wings of his splintered group. Democratic and Republican professionals always blow off third parties, but sooner or later they’re bound to make a dent.

Foreign policy is starting to look like a serious point of divergence between McCain and Bush, with the ex-POW coming off as a bellicose successor to Reagan’s Commie “rollback” policies and Shrub putting forward a more moderate worldview, talking about seeking accommodation with Russia before Vladimir Putin brings about rapprochement with China.

A telling moment came as McCain scrambled for leverage against Bush in South Carolina during a feisty exchange on CNN. “I would also… revise our policies concerning these rogue states: Iraq, Libya, North Korea — those countries that continue to try to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them,” McCain spat out at ringmaster Larry King.

“I’d institute a policy that I call ‘rogue state rollback.’ I would arm, train, and equip — both from without and from within — forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments. As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, I am convinced that he will pose a threat to our security.”

McCain went on to say he wasn’t sure he would bother to talk to Putin, whom he described as just another Russkie “apparatchik,” while Bush barely seemed able to answer the question. Finally, Dubya feebly declared: “All three of us agree that the president has drug his feet on the development of an antiballistic missile system. All three of us understand, just like I understand, that this nation must not retreat, but can lead the world to peace.”

The only other presidential candidate to take McCain’s duke-’em-out stance is Al Gore, who told Larry King during Kosovo that he thought the 21st century would be a time when the U.S. would be sorely tested in trying to protect human rights abuses abroad. Probably too early to tell, but Gore, spawned in the hawkish southern Democratic Leadership Council, and McCain, former Navy pilot and Kosovo hawk, could end up trying to outdo each other over whom to knock off first, Saddam or Qaddafi.

Grandma Facing Needle

Shrub’s Hot Seat

The only time Shrub Bush doesn’t look like a preppie wimp is when he talks about executing people. Then he becomes macho man. Wheeee. With voters in Arizona and Michigan now closely eyeing the race, Shrub will get a chance to show just how tough he can be by offing Betty Beets, 62, who was sentenced to death in 1985 for the murder of her husband, Jimmy Don. She’s on the Lone Star State’s execution assembly line, and scheduled to get the needle on Thursday, February 24. Jimmy Don disappeared in August 1983, his capsized boat found in a Texas lake, leading to suspicions that he had drowned while fishing. However, two years later his body was discovered buried beneath a wishing well in the yard of the family home. Betty was charged with the murder. And beneath Jimmy Don’s body, police also found the remains of a former husband of Betty’s, Doyle Barker, who had disappeared in 1981.

During the trial the prosecutor claimed Betty killed Jimmy Don to get his pension and insurance. Beets has claimed that her former attorney never introduced any evidence that might have resulted in a lesser sentence, such as the fact that she had been abused by her parents and other family members. So far these claims have come to naught. Beets alleges that the attorney took her case only after she signed over all media rights.

If Beets is executed, it will be only the second time in 100 years that a woman has gone to the death chamber in Texas. On February 3, 1998, Karla Faye Tucker was executed after Shrub refused to step in amid worldwide protests. Texas has carried out more executions than any other jurisdiction in the Western world.

Getting to Know You

The Hillary Quiz

“Who did Hillary meet as a youth that profoundly influenced her life? Cesar Chavez. Robert F. Kennedy. Rosa Parks. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Thanks to “The Hillary Quiz,” put up on the First Lady’s campaign website, we know the answer: Reverend King.

There are 23 questions in the quiz, all pointing out what a nice person Hillary is. Did you know, for example, that her favorite game is pinochle, and that salsa is her favorite “spicy” food? Kinda neat that a First Lady likes spicy salsa, don’t you think?

“What activities did Hillary enjoy as a young adult? Babysitting the children of migrant farmworkers. Playing softball. Serving as senior class vice-president. All of the Above.” The answer, of course, AOTA.

And there’s Question 18: “On the first date Hillary and President Bill Clinton went on together, what did they do? See a movie. Study in the library. Visit the Yale sculpture garden. Eat some pizza.” The answer (Rudy’s art attacks are, natch, a prime campaign issue): the sculpture garden.

By the way, did you know that the name of Hillary and Bill’s first dog was Zeke?

You may have heard how Hillary was alleged to have scammed the commodities market, played fast and loose in real estate, disappeared files in the White House, and even done the nasty with Vince Foster. Trust me. It didn’t happen. Read the quiz.

Bush Mom Weighs In

Babs Attack

Revealing the nasty side she’s been known to display in private, Dubya’s mean-minded mom swaggered into the news last week with an interview in the Arizona Republic savaging John McCain.

“Without sounding like I’m whining, I feel he’s had enormous help from the press, because he’s become sort of a star figure with them,” Barbara Bush whined. “I think they wanted a race, and I think they wanted a Bradley-Gore race, too… It’s fun for them. I think they have had a wonderful time.”

As for John’s being an “outsider,” she said, “It’s baloney,” adding, “That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. John just held the biggest fund-raiser in Washington with all the lobbyists, which is not against the law… It is brilliant campaigning to say that he is the outsider. But it’s crazy.”

Out of Our League

Dumb and Dumber

With three presidential candidates hailing from the Ivy League (Bush: Yale; Gore: Harvard; Bradley: Princeton), Melissa Waage, a Princeton undergrad writing in the campus newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, tells readers what it really means to be an Ivy Leaguer:

“Elite status in America is a matter of public perception, not of true merit,” she argues. “To say that a person is part of an elite is not to say that he or she is better than others; it is merely to say that most people believe that they are better than others. You or I could have slipped through the West College cracks. We could be dumber than the dumbest kid at a non-accredited community college. Nonetheless, since we attend Princeton, people think we’re smart.” D’oh.

Shit Pays

EPA Follies

Meanwhile, back in the real world, eco activists might consider this recently released report from the techy, nonprofit Environmental Working Group: Of 14 companies in the big industrial states of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania found to have violated the Clean Water Act at least once in the last two years, only one was fined by either state or federal regulators. The report quotes an Ohio EPA official as saying, “We are not an enforcement agency.”

What are you, then?

Bug Off

Like a roach crawling out of the drain, Paul Weyrich, former New Right stalwart, surfaced just before last week’s South Carolina vote to opine that John McCain might be a Manchurian Candidate sponsored by Hanoi. In his e-mail newsletter, the Christian crank claimed that the Khmer Rouge had said that, “for what it’s worth,” McCain was a Vietnamese agent. You go, Paul. You’re headed for the bin!

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi

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