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web posted November 1, 1999

Buchanan announces switch to Reform Party

After three unsuccessful attempts to win the Republican presidential nomination, Pat Buchanan announced on October 25 that he is switching to the Reform Party in hopes of winning its nomination.

The conservative commentator, who worked in the Nixon and Reagan White Houses, told a crowd of supporters of his intentions at a suburban Virginia hotel. He has been flirting with a Reform Party run for months after it became evident he did not have the support to win the GOP nomination.

"Today I am ending my lifelong membership in the Republican Party and ending my campaign for its nomination and I am declaring my intention to seek nomination of the Reform Party for the presidency of the United States," he said as supporters chanted "Go, Pat, Go."

Buchanan said the decision was not made without anguish and regret but "sometimes party loyalty asks too much and today it asked too much of us."

Buchanan sought the GOP nomination in both 1992 and 1996, throwing a scare into President George Bush and former Sen. Bob Dole with stronger-than-expected showings in early primary contests.

But he wasn't able to sustain that momentum in either campaign, and he has trailed far behind Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican field -- both in the polls and in raising money. The Texas governor is the son of the former president that Buchanan ran against in the primaries.

Buchanan relishes debating Vice President Al Gore and Bush.

Buchanan, who has never held elected office, says a third-party bid may be just what he needs to finally fulfill his presidential ambitions.

"If you get into the debates in a free-wheeling forum with Mr. Gore -- who I think the country doesn't want but he's stronger than you think -- and Mr. Bush -- who is going to have a tough year -- and we're in three debates together, I think I can win the presidency," Buchanan said.

If he gets the Reform Party's nomination, Buchanan would also have access to $13 million in federal campaign funds to which the party is entitled based on the strength of Ross Perot's 1996 showing.

However, Buchanan would face competition for the Reform nomination, including a possible bid by millionaire New York real estate developer Donald Trump. The flamboyant Trump renounced his Republican Party membership the day before to join the Independence Party, the New York state chapter of the Reform Party.

Buchanan did not comment on Trump's move as he met with Reform Party officials in Washington. He said a Reform bid would be a way of representing Americans whose opinions aren't shared by either major party, both of which he said have "become two wings of the same bird of prey."

Reform Party founder Ross Perot is declining comment on possible candidates to head the ticket in the 2000 presidential race.

"Mr. Perot is not saying anything politically, because he doesn't want to interfere with the Reform Party's nominating process," said Reform Party Chairman Russell Verney.

Some of Perot's backers within the party -- 1996 running mate Pat Choate -- have encouraged Buchanan to bolt the GOP, while Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the party's top elected official, has met with Trump.

Choate said Buchanan's support of tighter immigration policy and opposition to free trade make him attractive to many Reform voters, while his conservative views on social issues such as abortion would neither aid nor disqualify him.

"On the social issues, the Reform Party has a very libertarian view," Choate said. "Its members are split roughly 50-50, so the party takes no position."

Whether Buchanan's populist anti-free trade sentiments and social conservatism will take him any further in the Reform Party than they did in the Republican Party remains to be seen. However, his protectionist trade policies do resonate among the Reform faithful -- and could even drain blue-collar union support from the Democrats.

Former President George Bush, interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," said that he holds no animosity toward Buchanan -- even though many people believe Buchanan's 1992 challenge to Bush helped elect Bill Clinton.

"You can't help but like the guy," Bush said. "I just hope that he doesn't get all over my boys."

Jiang rejects criticism of human rights record

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, on a state visit to France, defended China's human rights record on October 25 and declared that democracy was not an "absolute."

"The Chinese government always has attached a great importance to human rights," Jiang said at a news conference, speaking alongside his host, French President Jacques Chirac.

Jiang said China's geographic location and large population meant that his country had a different approach to human rights and democracy.

"Democracy is not an absolute concept. On the contrary, it is relative, it is relative to the characteristics of each country," Jiang added.

Jiang had harsh words for the European Union, which recently criticized his country's human rights record, saying it represented interference in Chinese affairs.

Chirac said that he had emphasized French and EU concerns about the need for China to make progress on respecting human rights.

The French leader said China's role as a major power in the future would push it increasingly towards more democracy.

"I am convinced that, in view of the political and technological evolution of humanity, a major power will by necessity be democratic," said Chirac.

Jiang's high-level welcome from the French leadership has drawn criticism from Chirac's opponents and Chinese dissidents.

Not far from the Elysee Palace where Jiang spoke, French police arrested eight members of the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders during a protest in front of the offices of Air China.

Among the demands Jiang heard from protesters was one for Tibetan independence, "but I think Mr. Chirac would not share this point of view, he said.

Chirac chose not to react to Jiang's comment.

Jiang, on a two-week overseas tour that began in Britain, was greeted the day before in Paris at the Invalides, site of Napoleon's tomb as an estimated 500 protesters and Chinese dissidents gathered at the Place de la Bastille to denounce the visit.

Later, police detained about 100 protesters who had made their way across town to the official residence where Jiang was staying.

Meanwhile in Beijing, police on October 25 arrested several dozen members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement who had protested in Tiananmen Square against a draft law curbing cults.

In addition, four members of the banned China Democracy Party defended themselves in a Chinese court against subversion charges, a human rights group said.

The defendants were ordered to be silent and the trial adjourned without a verdict in the eastern city of Hangzhou, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China. The group said that four other members of the group had been detained.

GOP shows photo of Missouri govenor in blackface

Furious over accusations of racism leveled at Sen. John Ashcroft, Missouri Republicans contend that a 39-year-old newspaper photograph of Gov. Mel Carnahan in blackface shows Carnahan is not the progressive Democrat he claims to be.

The 1960 photo unearthed by the state GOP shows Carnahan, who is challenging Ashcroft for his Senate seat in 2000, as part of a white quartet wearing black makeup in a minstrel show.

The race issue emerged after Ashcroft successfully led efforts in the Senate on October 5 to reject the nomination of Ronnie White, the first black member of the Missouri Supreme Court, to a federal judgeship.

White's supporters say race was a factor, while Ashcroft maintains his concern was White's fitness for office, mainly his record in death penalty cases.

Research turned up the photo in the Rolla Daily News, the governor's hometown paper, Missouri GOP executive director John Hancock said.

A glossy print of the photograph and a copy of the clipping dated Oct. 12, 1960, were provided to The Associated Press by a Republican source on condition of anonymity. It shows Carnahan, then 26; his brother, Bob; and two other men performing at a Kiwanis Club fund-raiser.

Carnahan released a statement on October 25, apologizing for what he called "my insensitivity of 39 years ago."

The statement also said, "John Ashcroft has reached back almost four decades to try to find something to imply that I might harbor racist attitudes or would knowingly polarize our state.

"Senator Ashcroft's innuendoes notwithstanding, I'm proud of my long public record of fighting racial injustice, a public record that began almost four decades ago and continues through today."

Carnahan said minstrel shows were offensive and "just plain wrong."

"Nonetheless, 40 years ago, these shows were far too common," the statement said. "In those days, most white Americans - even many of us who support the cause of civil rights - failed to recognize the offensive nature of these performances."

Hancock denied a hand in the distribution of the picture. "A lot of people know about it," he said. "I'm guessing somebody might have had enough. I've had it e-mailed to me. It's out on the Internet. It's a shocking photo."

"I know a little bit about it, because I'm a ragtime pianist and a historian of that whole era," he said. "Minstrelsy isn't lighthearted. It's one of the most degrading, derogatory mockeries of an entire race of people that has ever existed.

"It bothers me when they inject race into politics, where it doesn't belong, when their own leader has this kind of sorry, sorry record," Hancock said.

Roy Temple, Carnahan's campaign adviser and executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party, said the picture represents the last time such a show was performed for the Kiwanis Club. At the urging of Carnahan's brother, he said, the civic service group in 1961 abandoned the minstrel performance in favor of a variety show.

By that time, Carnahan's father had become the first U.S. ambassador to the new African nation of Sierra Leone.

Racial sensitivity in Missouri has progressed vastly since 1960, Temple said. "To put it in context, there were people like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope doing these things in the major entertainment media," he said.

"John Ashcroft can't defend what he did to Ronnie White, so he's trying to attack Mel Carnahan," Temple added.

Buchanan says no religious test in America...how kind of him

Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said on October 26 that despite his adherence to Christianity, the Constitution forbids any religious test in America.

"It's open to people of all faiths," Buchanan, who is seeking the Reform Party nomination, said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Reminded that he has written that "we have to re-establish the Christian community's belief as the legitimate moral foundation of American society," Buchanan replied:

"I believe Jesus Christ was the son of God and I believe Christianity is the true faith. I would like all folks to come to it but I do believe that America's Constitution forbids a religious test."

Buchanan, a former aide to Presidents Nixon and Reagan, said he has become the target of name-calling "because people are afraid of the ideas I represent."

A potential rival for the Reform Party nomination, builder Donald Trump, has called Buchanan a loser and a Hitler lover and said "I guess he's anti-Semitic."

When interviewer Diane Sawyer began a question by referring to New York Times columnist and ex-Nixon aide William Safire as "your friend," Buchanan responded: "William Safire is not a friend of mine and I do not think he is an honorable man personally. ...

"I've gotta say I represent America first, I represent America only. Mr. Safire ... in my judgment has always put Israel a little bit ahead of his own country. ... When push comes to shove, we have to put the national interest of the United States of America ahead of any other country ... and that means Israel, as much as some folks love it."

On NBC's "Today," Buchanan said he hopes to put together "a new coalition of those left out, left behind."

Clinton doubts he's 'a drag on the Gore campaign'

U.S. President Bill Clinton said on October 28 he does not believe his affair with Monica Lewinsky has hindered Al Gore's presidential campaign.

Fielding questions from reporters at a joint news conference with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Clinton was asked if the Lewinsky affair that led to his impeachment "was a drag on the Gore campaign."

"No," Clinton said. "A lot of people who may not like me may hold it against him. But I don't think you hold him responsible. I don't think mature people hold one person responsible for another person's conduct, do you?

"I think if there had been some example of official misconduct in office, which he had been a part of, that would be a different thing."

If American voters were to hold a grudge against Gore for the president's sexual affair with a former White House intern, Clinton said, then "I hope they do give him some credit for the longest peacetime expansion in history and the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years and the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years and the lowest poverty rates in 20 years and the lowest crime rates in 30 years and the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years."

Clinton said, "In terms of what he said, he hasn't said anything that I haven't said."

He called Gore "the most accomplished vice president in history" and said that ultimately "the American people will make a decision based on what's in their interest."

"I don't think that they ought to vote for him on the fact that we had a great record either -- except that the great record is evidence of what he can do and where he will lead."

Smith drops out of presidential race

Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, who bolted the Republican Party in July to run for the presidency as an independent, quit the campaign on October 28, citing difficulties raising money.

"It has become impossible for me to continue a credible run for the presidency without the necessary finances, as many who have already ended their presidential bids have also experienced," Smith said in a statement.

The senator said he would end his campaign in the black and had "no regrets." The fact that thousands of people gave him an average contribution of $30 each "is the best indicator that there is a broad base of support throughout the country for my conservative agenda," he said.

Smith had $227 816 in cash on hand, according to his latest campaign disclosure statement. He had been able to raise about $2 million since he announced his bid last February.

Those amounts were dwarfed by GOP front-runner George W. Bush, who said in his last statement that he had $37 million on hand and had raised $57 million overall.

On July 13, when Smith left the GOP, he said in a Senate speech that the party was losing its conservative principles and had fallen into the hands of pollsters and consultants.

For a time, it appeared that he would seek the nomination of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, but that never happened.

Shortly after his defection, Smith's wife became ill and his presidential bid became barely visible.

Congressional officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Smith has made numerous overtures about returning to the Republican Party after barely 100 days as an independent. They said Smith's gestures include attendance at a party fund-raising dinner and conversations with senior Republicans.

The Manchester Union Leader newspaper reported that Smith has been in discussions with Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott about returning to the GOP.

His staff would not comment on that possibility. If he is accepted back in the GOP and allowed to maintain his previous seniority rights, he would be in line to take over the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee following the death of Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island. Otherwise, the chairmanship will go to Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Bush's shadow looms at GOP candidate forum in New Hampshire

Knowing that the man they wished to address was not attending, the pack of GOP presidential hopefuls used their nationally televised town meeting on October 28 as a forum to reiterate their familiar campaign themes of campaign finance and education reform and the flat tax.

"This is a delightful evening, because when I ran nearly four years ago, virtually every Republican denounced the idea of a flat tax, so education works," publisher Steve Forbes said after all of his competitors, Arizona Sen. John McCain, conservative activist Gary Bauer, talk-show host Alan Keyes and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, voiced support for the a flat tax.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush declined to attend the candidate forum, citing a prior family commitment. And although the other candidates went more than 40 minutes without mentioning him, it was clear Bush, who controls a substantial advantage in both local and national polls as well as fund-raising, was the opponent they all wanted to take on.

"Like you, I share the frustration that Governor Bush is not here tonight," said Forbes, whose personal fortune makes him the only candidate who currently can match Bush's $60-million-plus war chest. "Perhaps in the future, if we call a forum like this a fund-raiser, he might show up."

"How are we going to deal with a lack of voter participation if we have a lack of candidate participation?" Bauer, who also criticized Bush several times during the forum, asked after the event.

McCain refused to call Bush's absence an insult to New Hampshire, but he did predict after the forum that Bush would show up to future debates "particularly because we are moving up so fast in the polls."

Bush explained his absence to New Hampshire voters in an interview broadcast that night on WMUR, saying he skipped the event because his wife was being honored by her alma mater in Texas, and that he was "taking nothing for granted."

The town meeting may have been most important for McCain and Forbes, now considered Bush's strongest challengers.

"It was very clear that there was only one candidate who came across as presidential," Greg Stevens, McCain's media consultant, said after the debate.

McCain appeared comfortable in the setting. At one point, after being asked a question about the controversial subject of medical marijuana, he joked: "That is an excellent question I would prefer to duck."

But he also returned to a familiar theme of campaign finance reform, taking on his colleges in the Congress more than his competitors on the stage.

"I'm for reform. I'm for reform of education, reform of the military, reform of the tax code. My dear friends, that's not possible. That's not possible when average Americans are no longer represented in Washington, D.C.," McCain pleaded. "I will fight to the last breath I draw to eliminate the influence of special interests ... I will not rest until I give the government back to you."

Forbes was also questioned about campaign finance reform and the perception that the GOP nomination is being "auctioned off" to the highest bidder.

"The lobbyists have made their choice. They're not backing me because I'm independent," Forbes responded.

Hatch promptly went after Forbes' riches. "I think if people want to talk about campaign finance reform, then they ought to live their own rules. They ought to set an example," Hatch said, adding if he wins the presidency, "you'll have somebody who is beholden only to the people."

McCain, trying to stake out a moderate ground in the primaries, was asked about the Republican Party's position on abortion rights.

"Both pro-life and pro-choice people believe very strongly that we need to eliminate abortion ... And my party, which is proud of its pro-life position and I am proud of it, should send the word: We want you in our party. We can have respectful disagreements on specific issues and we can work together on this one," McCain said.

With Bauer, Keyes, Hatch and Forbes espousing smaller government and moral leadership, most of the forum focused on questions of concern to conservatives.

Bauer's strongest moment of the evening may have come as he discussed illegal immigrants. "We allow countless people to butt into the front of the line, to pour across our borders, and have as their first act upon entering our country the violation of our laws," he said. The United States needed "secure borders" to address that problem, he said.

Hatch sometimes appeared to play the role of the courtroom lawyer he once was, striding back and forth across the auditorium stage when asked about gun owners' rights. As his voice approached a shout, he said he was "a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights" and said the Clinton Administration needed to enforce current gun laws instead of seeking many additional regulations.

And Keyes talked about what he saw as a government out of control. For example, when asked about the federally funded Americorps public service program -- a favorite of President Bill Clinton's -- Keyes said: "I am a great believer in volunteerism in this country but I think it's time we understood that it should be just that."

The format of the event was identical to one held Wednesday night at the same site, featuring the two major Democratic presidential candidates -- former Sen. Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore. But the three additional candidates on stage meant each Republican spent less time in the spotlight than the Democrats.

The only discord in the first 30 minutes came when an unidentified woman interrupted the proceedings to demand a cut in military spending to benefit health care and education. Moderators swiftly regained control of the proceedings.

TNT to make Atlas Shrugged miniseries. Next on tap, Devil to buy rights to the Bible

TNT, owned by self-described "socialist at heart" Ted Turner, will attempt to turn "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand's 1 172-page 1957 novel espousing objectivism, into a four-hour miniseries.

Albert S. Ruddy, one of the producers of the movie "The Godfather," will executive-produce the $15 million to $21 million drama.

Ruddy, whose TV credits include "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Hogan's Heroes," first tried to get the rights to "Atlas Shrugged" from Rand 25 years ago, according to the trade paper Variety. But Rand insisted on final script approval and the talks stopped there.

Rand died in 1982. Ruddy recently bought the rights and expects to begin production on the miniseries this summer.

Susan Black, a writer on HBO's "State of Emergency", will write the screenplay.

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