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web posted January 31, 2000

Hatch abandons presidential bid

After his last-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch abandoned his Republican presidential nomination bid on January 26 and endorsed GOP front-runner George W. Bush for the nomination.

"I believe Governor Bush is the one who can unite the party and bring back the White House to us," he said. "I think he has the ability to do that. Now that I am out, I think Governor Bush is the only person who can get things done."

Bush, the Texas governor, was the winner of the GOP Iowa caucuses. Bush received 41 percent of the vote. Publisher Steve Forbes came in second with 30 percent, and Alan Keyes, a former ambassador, took third with 14 percent.

In a memorable quote from one of the GOP debates, Hatch said Bush would make a fine president after eight years as vice president in a Hatch administration. But the senator said his confidence in Bush has risen as he has observed him on the campaign trail.

"I like the fact he can reach across partisan lines," he said. "I think we've got to have that in this country and certainly in our party. We can't just take a narrow agenda and just narrowly be for a few people in this country. We've got to be for everybody."

Hatch mustered a bare 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses, which were the first votes cast in the 2000 presidential race. Hatch blamed his late entry into the race for his poor showing in the caucuses.

"I got in too late. I regret having not gotten in earlier. I think it would have made a difference. To be honest with you, most every Republican was taken by the time," he said, adding that "I don't think you can do it in a six-month campaign. I think I've proven that."

Hatch launched his quixotic campaign for the Republican nomination last July. At that time, Hatch said that he had examined the rest of the GOP field and found it lacking a candidate with the experience to be an effective president.

Aides also said that Hatch was concerned that the other candidates in the GOP field were not strong enough to step into the front-runner position in the event of a stumble by Bush.

Hatch, 65, was hoping his four terms in the Senate would show voters he had the experience to be president. He repeatedly said he was the only candidate with the background to pick Supreme Court justices who would uphold conservative principles, such as opposition to abortion.

He faced an uphill battle from the start. He joined a crowded GOP field with better known candidates already well established and other candidates already struggling as Bush kept gaining momentum.

He jokingly noted that he moved up quickly in the crowded field in the months after he entered the race.

"Now some nitpickers may say that's because Lamar, Dan and Liddy dropped out but I kind of liked the trend," he said, referring to the candidacies of Lamar Alexander, Dan Quayle and Elizabeth Dole, who dropped out due to Bush's strength and fund raising. "Unfortunately, the other candidates are not doing their part to keep this trend."

Former House Democrat to join Republican caucus

Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, who last week announced he was leaving the Democratic Party, said on January 27 he will join the House Republican Conference and participate in GOP policy sessions.

Goode, a conservative who has frequently voted with the Republicans since his election in 1996, repeated that he will run as an independent in the fall election and is not formally joining the Republican Party.

But Goode, at a news conference where he was surrounded by House GOP leaders, said that in a vote to choose the next House speaker he would pick Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., over Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.

Hastert, he said, is "more likely to restrain federal spending" and work to save the Social Security system.

Republicans rewarded Goode's move by awarding him a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, coveted by lawmakers seeking to determine how the federal government spends its money.

Hastert said his party is "lucky to have Congressman Goode's further help in moving our agenda forward."

Goode's decision to participate in Republican caucuses, where the party plots strategy and sets policy, was a setback for Democrats in their drive to regain a majority in the November election.

The Republicans hold 222 seats in the House to 211 for the Democrats. In addition to Goode, there is one other independent, Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a socialist who usually votes with the Democrats.

"Conservative" group calls for break-up of Microsoft

Microsoft should be sliced into smaller companies as punishment for years of intimidating rivals in the computer industry, a conservative think tank said on January 27.

The Washington-based Progress and Freedom Foundation suggests that US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson transfer ownership of Windows into three competing firms that would each have full rights to the product.

PFF, which receives funding from Microsoft arch-competitors including Sun Microsystems and Oracle, said a fourth company should get rights to sell applications software, such as Word and Office.

Jeff Eisenach, PFF president, said the plan would free MS from continued judicial oversight.

"The only restriction would be that the operating systems companies couldn't do exclusive deals with the application company because that's essentially recombining the company," Eisenach said.

PFF is somewhat unusual among conservative think tanks because it has taken an aggressive anti-Microsoft position during the trial. Other conservative or libertarian groups, including the Cato Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Americans for Tax Reform, have criticized the Department of Justice lawsuit.

In November 1999, PFF published a defense of its position that said that those other groups are also trying to undermine antitrust laws.

Robert Levy, an analyst at the free-market Cato Institute, said PFF's proposal would cause more problems than it solves. The Cato Institute receives some funds from Microsoft.

"It's got all of the problems of the vertical divestiture compounded by the problems of the horizontal divestiture. They tried to get around the problems, but I think they compounded them," Levy said. "Vertical divestiture is going to require ongoing decisions about whether a product is part of the operating system or an application. Think of how difficult [that will be]."

In the paper, analyst Tom Lenard said that of the possible remedies Judge Jackson could impose, the four-way breakup was the least onerous.

"The major cost of the hybrid solution is the disruption associated with creating three new operating system competitors out of one existing monopoly. This cost is not trivial. But it is also temporary. The benefits to consumers of reinvigorated competition and innovation throughout the computer sector will be long lasting and well worth this short-run cost," Lenard wrote.

Jackson has not ruled that Microsoft has violated antitrust laws. If he does, he will consider what remedies are appropriate.

Clinton calls for "tax cut," new gun controls

U.S. President Bill Clinton called for a major new gun licensing program, a $350 billion tax cut, expansion of federal health care programs and new environmental programs during his State of the Union address on January 27.

Clinton used his eighth State of the Union address to outline a long list of proposals, one the White House had characterized all week as designed in part to show he is still a viable chief executive with substantive work to do. The president took a few moments to bask in the accomplishments he felt his administration had made, but he spent far more time suggesting dozens of programs.

"The state of our union is the strongest it has ever been," Clinton told the joint session of Congress -- a none-too-subtle change from a tradition of most presidents, who start their addresses by claiming the state of the union is "strong."

"We are fortunate to be alive in this moment in history. Never before has our nation enjoyed at once so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats," Clinton said. Noting that "next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history," Clinton said the challenge was to expand that growth to those who had not yet participated in its benefits.

Aides have said all week that Clinton, in presenting the State of the Union address of his final year in office, would give an address short on nostalgia. That was the case, as Clinton offered something for many constituencies, from lower-income families to married couples affected by the so-called "marriage tax" to people seeking health care coverage to those who seek an overhaul of the campaign finance system.

Clinton was interrupted 128 times for applause during his 89-minute address -- his longest yet, beating his 1995 address by eight minutes.

Likely to get the most immediate attention is Clinton's tax cut proposal, which would be phased in over 10 years and is smaller than many Republican proposals. Competing tax cut plans have become political fodder in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail.

Clinton suggested expanding the earned income tax credit, which benefits lower-income working families. "Their children should not be in poverty," he said. He also offered tax credits for businesses who invest in inner cities and rural areas.

"This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. Giving people a chance to live their dreams is an American issue," he said.

Under Clinton's gun control plan, potential handgun buyers first would have to obtain a license showing they have passed a criminal background check and have received gun safety training. Although states could choose not to participate, a federally approved gun dealer or a federal entity would issue licenses in those states.

The president also proposed spending $280 million for 500 new inspectors and agents in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with more than 1,000 federal state and local gun prosecutors. The president also said the money would be used to help develop so-called smart guns, which prevent anyone other than their owners from firing them.

The president said Congress should make "common sense gun legislation the very next order of business," and he said existing laws must be better enforced -- a regular complaint of gun rights activists.

As has been the case in his past State of the Union addresses, Clinton offered a long list of new programs and overhauls. He proposed:

-- Spending $400 billion from the anticipated federal surplus to keep Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled, viable through 2025. Clinton also wants to spend $110 billion over the next 10 years to improve public access to health care, mostly through expanding federal programs to cover an additional 5 million Americans. He also suggested spending $28 billion over the next 10 years for $3,000-per-person tax credits to help pay for long-term care, $19 billion on biomedical research, and $175 million on HIV and AIDS treatment, education and preventative outreach programs.

--Spending $30 billion over 10 years on tax relief for college students and families; and spending an additional $5 billion for after-school and summer school programs for children.

--Several new environmental programs, including $1.3 billion to help family farms protect their water supplies and $30 million for wetlands protection.

--A variety of civil rights-oriented programs, including money for expansion of the Justice Department's civil rights division, as well as $27 million to fight employment practices that discriminate against women.

--Providing an additional $3 billion in science and technology research. "We owe it to our future," Clinton said of the proposal, which he said was the largest in a generation.

--Closing the so-called digital divide between those affluent enough to own a computer and those who do not. Clinton suggested new tax incentives designed to provide greater computer access.

--Congressional approval of normalized trade relations status for China. "It will plainly advance the cause of peace in Asia and promote the cause of change in China," said the president, who is pushing for Chinese entry into the World Trade Organization.

But there was much more -- dozens of proposals in all, spun out at a rapid pace. "Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity -- and therefore such a profound obligation -- to build the more perfect union of our founders' dreams," Clinton said.

At one point, Clinton made a whopper of a non sequitur at the vice president's expense. The president said repeatedly, "Last year, the vice president launched a program to make our communities more liberal" when he meant to use the word "liveable."

In the Republican response, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Frist of Tennessee outlined a Republican agenda that touched on many of the same topics as Clinton, but with different proposed solutions.

Discussing education proposals, Collins said, "The debate in Washington is not about money. It is about who makes the decisions." Frist, a doctor, called on Clinton to "give us a health care plan that includes choice and security."

10,000-shovel parade protests Forest Service roads policy

Disgruntled Westerners shipped thousands of shovels to northeast Nevada to protest federal environmental policy and lend support to residents feuding with the U.S. Forest Service over a washed-out road.

About 200 makeshift floats and other vehicles were entered in a parade on January 29 to carry an estimated 10,000 shovels down Elko's main street to a rally at the county courthouse.

"It has taken on a life of its own," said O.Q. "Chris" Johnson, a local businessman who helped organize the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade Parade. "It's bigger than the Fourth of July."

Ranchers, loggers, miners and small business owners donated the shovels in a show of support for locals' efforts to rebuild the South Canyon Road along the Jarbidge River in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The Forest Service has fought their efforts, saying the road work and erosion would harm the river's population of bull trout, an endangered species.

Most of the shovels were delivered in a caravan from Montana, where loggers and mill workers long have been at odds with the Forest Service.

"Somehow, sending a shovel seems symbolic. Maybe it will make a difference," said Cary Hegreberg of Helena, Mont., executive vice president of the Montana Wood Products Association.

"Most people understand shovels are a symbol of work. That's something we have in common -- we want to work," he said.

Elko County Commissioner Mike Nannini, who helped organize the parade, said shovels arrived by mail from as far away as Rhode Island and Maryland.

"It's just a grassroots deal. It's not just the West anymore. These people are saying 'No more,"' he said.

The Jarbidge River, in a remote canyon near the Idaho border, is home of the southernmost population of bull trout in North America.

The 1.5-mile road leads to a trailhead for a wilderness, and provides vehicle access to fishing and camping along the river.

The Elko County Commission claims the Forest Service has no jurisdiction over the South Canyon Road along the river because the road was there before the Humboldt National Forest was established in the early 1900s.

Johnson and others threatened to rebuild the road by hand, but a federal judge in Reno issued a court order banning any work on the road in November.

The controversy has prompted a congressional field hearing and has become a lightning rod for criticism of President Clinton's proposal to protect millions of acres of roadless areas in national forests.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, offered his support for the protest in a letter to organizers on Friday.

"Since the vast majority of the public lands are in the West, perhaps the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., simply don't understand the impact their decisions have on our western way of life," Guinn said.

One of the protesters was Bob Secrist of Elko.

"I'm in the firewood business and the Forest Service is giving me a bad time. They are supposed to manage the forest but they are just shutting it down and locking it up," he said.

Reform delegates vote against leadership review

Canada's Reformers delivered a strong endorsement of Preston Manning's leadership on January 30, giving him the freedom to lead the party into a broader right-wing political coalition.

Seventy-five per cent of delegates at Reform's annual assembly voted against holding a leadership race after Manning told the weekend gathering he'll pursue merging Reform with other like-minded conservatives into one party.

"I think it's a mandate," Manning said shortly after the leadership review. "I told the party members last night very clearly the direction in which I wish to lead."

A weak vote for Manning would have thrown into question support among the rank-and-file for his initiative, now formally called the Canadian Alliance. He linked the two a few weeks ago when he told members he would ultimately resign as leader if they didn't support the project in a coming referendum.

With the leadership hurdle successfully cleared, Manning will now focus on the all-important vote.

The 70,000 party members will be asked to adopt the constitution and policy framework of the Canadian Alliance and be absorbed into the organization. A two-thirds majority is necessary for it to pass.

There was a very vocal minority of delegates at the weekend convention who railed against the idea and its architect.

"We have Reformers pitted against Reformers and ridings split in half and there will be lawsuits likely down the road -- why did we need this?" asked an angry Marlene Davey of Langley Abbotsford in British Columbia.

Some alliance sceptics cautioned that the show still ain't over.

"They still have the final vote from the membership," said Reform MP Darrel Stinson.

"You have to remember that there's a representation of the membership here, but it's only a small percentage."

Manning said he'll be on the road in coming weeks to sell the alliance across the country. He will also have to mend bridges with members of his caucus who challenged his vision.

"Reformers, whenever we come to these junctures, have always in the final analysis been willing to push the envelope and take the next step. But I don't want to take that for granted so we're going to do all we can to promote it."

Manning could face another leadership challenge in June for the helm of the proposed new party. Some of the movement's supporters say a new leader is necessary to make inroads in Ontario and the East.

The Reform assembly took place on the heels of the United Alternative convention, the former name of the movement now know as the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party or Canadian Alliance for short. The long name has the unfortunate acronym of CCRAP, which is bound to spark endless jokes in the House of Commons.

The UA gathering hammered out policy and a constitution for the proposed party, which adopted mostly Reform principles, with a few notable exceptions: support for official bilingualism and a flat 17 per cent rate of income taxation.

Reformers didn't mince words as they discussed the ramifications of joining the Canadian Alliance.

Cliff Fryers, Manning's chief of staff, said delegates should keep their eyes on the big picture.

"It is the travel and the seeking of a destination together with an ever-expanding number of travel companions that is relevant, not the vehicle," said Fryers.

"The people of Canada for whom we have been fighting care little for names or organization theory."

After several speeches urging members to vote in favour of the initiative, some delegates complained they weren't hearing both sides of the story.

An overwhelming majority supported the call for an anti-alliance person to be given an opportunity to address the convention. Ten minutes was eventually allocated for a volunteer to take the floor.

"(The United Alternative) did not come from the grassroots -- seven or eight or 10 guys sat around in Winnipeg one day and said we need a new party if we're going to give Preston another chance at the big prize," said Ontario Reformer Roland MacDonald.

"The only way we can do it is to hijack the Reform party, stab it in the back, push it in the grave and start a new party."

Even some delegates who said they would support the Canadian Alliance griped about the way it had been managed by a small group of provincial Tories and Reformers.

A perception that the proposed party will be a more centralized organization has been one of the stumbling blocks.

"This UA is going forward and I'm going to support it but we don't hold the moral high ground in terms of grassroots populism," said Alan McDonnell, of Burnaby B.C.

Officials at the Reform convention reiterated that should Reformers turn down the Canadian Alliance option, that movement would be disbanded within 36 months.

If they support the UA, Reform would simply be no more.

A wistful Deborah Grey, the first Reform MP elected to Parliament, said she'll keep her Reform 1 licence plate.

"I'm still a Reformer, but I'm moving on," Grey said. "It's just a bigger licence plate on a bigger bus."

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