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88 in '08?

April 12, 2007

Swann's way

Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann confirmed to the Associated Press yesterday that he is weighing a run for Congress against Rep. Jason Altmire, the Democrat who ousted former Rep. Melissa Hart last November.

Swann, a Republican who was crushed by Gov. Ed Rendell in the same 2006 Democratic tidal wave that inundated Ms Hart, told the AP, "I'm still collecting information . . . "People are still talking to me about it."

Swann was a bit cryptic when the AP asked him about a timetable for his decision.

"It's a process. It's not a matter at this point about whether it's something I thought about doing in the past or would think about doing in the future. . . . It's a matter of getting information and keeping an open mind."

Whatever that means.

Swann's name has been an object of speculation for the 4th District seat. Speaking at a Republican dinner earlier this year, Ms. Hart said she was considering a rematch, while Ron Francis, a former Allegheny County council member, is already raising money in hopes of capturing the GOP's nomination. Post-Gazette Washington correspondent Jerome Sherman reported last week that Mr. Altmire was a prime target of the National Republican Congressional Committee, although the party, as Mr. Swann's remarks suggest, has yet to coalesce behind a challenger for the freshman Democrat.

Speaking about the speaker

Some St. Vincent College students thought it was an honor when it was announced that the school would host President Bush as its commencement speaker this year. Others, opposed to administration's policies on the Iraq War and other issues, were less than thrilled. Both sides will get a chance to air their views at a student forum at 9:15 p.m. next Tuesday, April 17.

"I think it is important that we give our students an opportunity to express their opinions about President Bush's acceptance of our invitation to be Commencement Speaker whether they are in favor of it or not," Jim Towey, the college's president said in a statement announcing the event. "Openness to a diversity of viewpoints is an important part of their liberal education. I think a discussion regarding Commencement is an opportunity for students to formulate their opinions and articulate them in a shared forum.''

The event is closed to the general public. C-SPAN is taping it for rebroadcast at some later date. The school's commencement ceremonies are May 11.


In the words of Emily Letella

Sen. Arlen Specter took exception to a Post-Gazette editorial a few weeks ago which praised his service while suggesting he should pack it in when his term ends in 2010. In a subsequent letter the senator rebutted the editorial board, pointing out that he would be the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee if he extends his record tenure by serving another term. Reporting in The Hill, Aaron Blake points out that the senator's boast isn't accurate, that he'd only be number two on the GOP side of the powerful panel. Scott Hoeflich, Mr. Specter's press secretary, took one for the team, blaming the error on an editing error on his part.


As the Senate prepared to vote on a bill that would significantly expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Sen. Arlen Specter joined dozens of his colleagues this week in detailing personal battles with life-threatening illnesses that could one day benefit from new treatments:

"Noting his own Hodgkin's disease, he also recalled the loss of his chief of staff to breast cancer, and a close friend and federal judge to prostate cancer," writes former Post-Gazette intern Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, who characterized the senator's comments as part of the "Oprahfication" of American politics.

"While it is difficult to imagine Daniel Webster rising to discuss his cirrhosis of the liver, or Henry Clay requesting floor time to expound on a relative's gout, the 110th Congress has turned the highly personal into the intensely political. Those senators who didn't talk about ailing or deceased family members yesterday or the day before invariably discussed ailing or deceased friends and constituents."

Rove's dog ate it

Speaking of mistakes, The Los Angeles Times notes that "The White House said Wednesday that it may have lost what could amount to thousands of messages sent through a private e-mail system used by political guru Karl Rove and at least 50 other top officials, an admission that stirred anger and dismay among congressional investigators.

"The e-mails were considered potentially crucial evidence in congressional inquiries launched by Democrats into the role partisan politics may have played in such policy decisions as the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.''

Don't you hate it when that happens?

So does Sen. Patrick Leahy. In an angry speech on the Senate floor yesterday, he said, "They say they have not been preserved. I don't believe that!" Leahy shouted from the Senate floor.

"You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers . . . "Those e-mails are there, they just don't want to produce them. We'll subpoena them if necessary."

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said there is no effort to keep the e-mails under wraps, and that the counsel's office is doing everything it can to find any that were lost.

Conjuring the image of the 18-and-a-half minute gap in the Watergate tapes, Leahy said,

"E-mails don't get lost. These are just e-mails they don't want to bring forward."

Here stays the judge

A U.S. attorney who didn't get fired won one in the prosecution of former county Coroner Cyril H. Wecht. The Third Circuit rejected a petition from Dr. Wecht's attorneys asking the court to remove U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, claiming that he was biased against their client. The court did grant a defense request to open the files of an FBI agent whose conduct in the case has raised questions by the defense.

Of ducks and jackasses

The City Paper finds a political menagerie as it spotlights the efforts of the Patrick Dowd campaign, to entice Councilman Len Bodack Jr. to join the challenger on a debate stage. The incumbent dismisses the challenge, and the "Boduck'' appellation the Down campaign has repeated in an attempt to goad him into a joint appearance.

"He wants me to build a crowd for him; I can't let his campaign run my campaign," Bodack told the City Paper's Violet Law. "Plus, My grandpa taught me: Never argue with a jackass, because then you'll look like one."

A slap on the wallet

Rep. Jim Gerlach, the eastern Pennsylvania Republican who barely survived a challenge last November, has run afoul of the Federal Election Commission in a big way, incurring a stiff $120,000 fine.

The Daily News reports that "Gerlach over-reported more than $2 million in contributions in 2004 and 2005, and misreported about $8,900 in refunded contributions in another report, the FEC said Wednesday. His campaign also failed to itemize contributor information in its 2004 year-end report, the agency said.

Gerlach blamed unintentional clerical errors for the problems.

"It is my campaign and I accept responsibility," Gerlach said. "We are voluntarily putting this clerical nightmare behind us and moving on."

Big Jim

The name James J. Manderino still carries clout in Harrisburg, even though he hasn't been a House Democratic leader since his death nearly 20 years ago.

Mr. Manderino, a powerful Democrat from Westmoreland County, was House majority leader for much of the 1980s, and served a year as speaker before he died in December 1989. He served 22 years in the House in all.

Now, Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, wants to honor him by renaming the Keystone Office Building, across the street from the Capitol, as the Speaker James J. Manderino Office Building. The building houses the Department of Transportation and other agencies.

"James Manderino was a kind and approachable person,'' Mr. Caltagirone said, "but he also had a toughness to his personality. He did whatever it took to solve a problem. This building designation would be a fitting tribute to his tremendous accomplishments of service and skill.''

Intelligent designs

Judge John E. Jones attracted national and international attention with his landmark decision ruling against the Dover School District's efforts to promote the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Now, the judge's prose has made its way into the latest edition of "The Best American Nonrequired Reading.''

The anthology is edited by Dave Eggers(http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/catalog/authordetail.cfm?authorID=8684), and compiled by a committee of readers, mostly California high-school and college students. It includes their choices for the year's best magazine articles, short stories, speeches, cartoons and more.

An excerpt from Mr. Jones's U.S. District Court decision is included under the title "Best American Ringing Defeat of Religion Masquerading as Science."

Jonesing on cross-tabs

Of course it's way too early to be polling about the 2008 presidential race. And, of course, we can't shake our addiction to this crack. Providing our latest fix of this guilty pleasure, Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times find Hillary Clinton ahead of Barack Obama among Democrats nationally and Rudy Giuliani ahead of Fred Thompson and a fading John McCain among Republicans. Mr. Obama looks a little better than Ms Clinton in general election match-ups, thoug. He leads McCain (48% to 40%) and Giuliani leads Clinton (48% to 42%), while all other match-ups between Giuliani, McCain, Obama, John Edwards, and Clinton are within the margin of sampling error.