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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester and Clothilde Ewing of the CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.



Kerry And Bush Both Target Dean: Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean has brought a new round of attacks from John Kerry and an acknowledgement from the Bush campaign that it's starting to focus on Howard Dean as the president's most likely opponent in 2004.

Campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Kerry invoked "the specter of the contested Florida vote of 2000 in warning Gore to stay out of the current race," The Boston Globe reports. Kerry also said Gore did not understand Dean's true position on the war against Iraq and complained that Dean has escaped the media spotlight regarding his position on the war, which Kerry argues has been inconsistent.

On Gore, Kerry said: "Let me just say to you, if there's any person in the United State of America who ought to have respect for waiting until the votes are counted, and completely counted, it's Al Gore."

Meanwhile, the Bush campaign has let it be known that it is beginning to focus on Dean as its 2004 target and is "planning a campaign that takes account of what they see as Dr. Dean's strengths and weaknesses," the Times reports. The Washington Post says "advisers to President Bush once relished a race against Howard Dean, but they say they have become increasingly wary of him, worried that his unconventional and intense appeal poses a threat they had once underestimated."

"We're ready to go," one senior Republican official told the Times. "The broad thematics and the whole approach to him, those things have been well thought out. As for the tactical stuff, it's still out there. The timing is a big decision." Another Republican told the Times that there was serious though of putting Mr. Bush into "full campaign mode soon after he delivers the State of the Union in late January."

Despite some confidence on the Bushies part, there is some skepticism about dismissing Dean's general election potential. "If Howard Dean is the candidate, is that a slam dunk for George W. Bush?" said West Virginia GOP chairman Gary Abernathy. "No, it is not."

Former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a regional chairman of Mr. Bush's campaign, said a lot remains to be seen from Dean as a general election candidate. "He has the biggest potential to go down in flames, but he also has a certain wild-card potential," Weber said, neatly summing up the concerns many people, both Democrats and Republicans, have about the former Vermont governor.

Meanwhile, it looks like Dean has started to reposition himself for the general election. The L.A. Times reports that in a survey by the Council for a Livable World, an anti-Bush defense policy group, Dean said he'd back more research on a missile defense shield and opposed banning weapons in space. "Effective missile defense will be an important part of a dean administration's national and homeland security strategy," Dean said. On weapons in space, he said, "Technological development in space will continue and we should not reduce the technological advantages that our military enjoys by prohibiting the use of space for military activities."

The answers could be surprising to many of Dean's Democratic backers who view "Star Wars" as outrageously expensive and something that alienates our allies.

Is Clark Getting Any Young-er? The Clark campaign has confirmed that civil rights leader Andrew Young will endorse the general on Dec. 21. Young, who came to prominence as a lieutenant to Martin Luther King, Jr., entered Congress in 1972 and served as President Carter's U.N. Ambassador until he resigned over a secret meeting with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Clark team is hoping that Young's credentials, along with today's formal endorsement from influential black leader Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., will help Clark offset the Gore endorsement of Dean on Monday and South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn's nod to Dick Gephardt on Tuesday. Gephardt has a new TV ad for South Carolina featuring a testimonial from Clyburn.

Clark is hard at work trying to sell his "Turnaround Plan for America" and raising his goal of $10 million this quarter. On Wednesday night at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, the Clark campaign hosted a fund-raiser where it previewed a new video bio of Clark called "America's Son," made by none other than Clinton pal and former "Designing Women" producer Linda Bloodworth. Bloodworth told reporters on Tuesday that she "liked Dean" but got involved with Clark because he's from Arkansas and they have "mutual friends." She didn't deny talking to their mutual friends, the Clintons, about Clark, but said that they didn't ask her to make the video.

Another FOB&H, former U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, the Clark campaign's steering committee chairman, spent time on the call reminiscing with Bloodworth about "The Man from Hope" and the good old days of 1992.

Some have called the 17-minute video a real "tear-jerker." At the New York fundraiser, CBS News' Bonney Kapp, who is traveling with the Clark campaign, notes that the video certainly had that effect on the retired general. He "was literally crying when he walked up to the stage," Kapp reports. As Clark attempts to be the anti-Dean, maybe he should be careful not to be the next Muskie.

Others will have the chance to be moved to tears starting on Dec. 18, when the campaign will host house parties around the country to screen the 30-minute documentary. In January, the campaign will probably buy blocks of time on cable network(s) to air the video in some early primary states. Bloodworth said husband Harry Thomason was dealing with that aspect of "America's Son."

Putting Things in Writing: Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani's once-private letters from his first year in office are about to go public, revealing behind the scenes political deals, pleas from celebrities and an apology from political consultant Harold Ickes, the New York Post reports.

After two years of cataloguing by a private firm hired by Giuliani, thousands of pages of letters have been delivered to the NYC Municipal Archives. While most of the letters are routine, many of the authors probably never guessed their correspondence would one day be in the public domain. For example, Harold Ickes, senior adviser to then-Mayor David Dinkins in 1993, may have thought twice about apologizing in a May 2, 1994, letter for calling Giuliani a "hard-edged pr--k."

"My quote in this week's New York magazine is how I would describe myself," Ickes wrote. "It was insensitive. I apologize for any embarrassment it might have caused." This clearly doesn't do much for Ickes "hard-nosed" reputation.

In another letter, James DeCuzzi, an early Giuliani backer, complained to a Giuliani staffer that he didn't get an appointment to the mayor's Committee on the Judiciary, reminding him that he had been promised, "every consideration."

"In addition, my father was verbally apprised unequivocally, on several occasions, and from the highest levels – including your office – that I was, to say the least, a strong candidate with an excellent chance for appointment," DeCuzzi wrote on Aug. 9. DeCuzzi never got that post, but three months later he was named to the Mayor's Committee on City Marshals and in 1997 he was named president of the Tax Commission.

Giuliani also received a letter from legendary Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn who pleaded with the mayor to block Fordham University from erecting a radio tower across the street from the New York Botanical Garden. "It really does harm. The flowers are trying to breathe," she wrote. Giuliani wrote back to the actress personally, but a decade later the problem still hasn't been resolved.

While there's a lot of fodder here, Giuliani has been criticized for taking the letters out of the public domain and cataloging them privately.

Quote of the Day: "Gina, we'll talk." Rep. Dennis Kucinich to Gina Marie Santore after the two had breakfast Thursday. Santore won a date with the presidential hopeful in a contest sponsored by PoliticsNH.com. (AP)

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