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Washington Wrap

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

Deficit Spending: The presidential candidates' 3rd quarter financial filings were due at the Federal Election Commission Wednesday and, as always, there are some interesting revelations.

First, three of the Democratic candidates wound up spending more than they brought in between June 1 and Sept. 30: John Kerry, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt. Kerry pulled in just over $4 million - $500,000 to $1 million less than they floated at the end of September – and spent almost $7.1 million. Edwards wound up bringing in $2.6 million ($460,000 of it was transferred from his aborted Senate campaign) and spent over $5.8 million. And Gephardt straddled the line, spending $4.2 million and raising $3.8 million for the quarter. Meantime, Joe Lieberman also was on the cusp raising $3.63 million and spending $3.59 million.

Overall, the thing to watch, as the Kerry campaign likes to remind everyone, is how much money they have on-hand. Howard Dean leads the Democrats, thanks to the $14.8 million he collected in the 3rd quarter, with $12.4 million on hand. Kerry, while he seems to be on a spending spree, still has $7.8 million left to spend. Gephardt is next with $5.9 million, Edwards has $4.8 million and Lieberman has $4.1 million on hand.

Wesley Clark, who jumped into the race 13 days before the books closed wound up raising $3.5 million and spending only about $100,000 of that.

Interestingly, one candidate who always runs but is always forgotten has done pretty well for himself in the fund-raising arena: Lyndon LaRouche. Not only is he one of two Democratic candidates to qualify for federal matching funds – the other is Dean – but he's pulled in $5.4 million - $2 million more than Dennis Kucinich and over $5 million more than Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton. LaRouche, however, isn't as frugal as the others having spent all but $39,000 of his money.

In the end, all these Democrats have been trounced by the $85 million President Bush has raised so far this year. However the ten Democrats (including LaRouche) combined have raised $13 million more than Mr. Bush, so the party of the "little guy" seems to be quite solvent.

Nothing to Hide? Campaigning on a message of "New American Patriotism," the campaign of Wesley Clark just released more than 200 pages of internal military evaluations from superiors who, time after time, had nothing but the highest praise for the career military man.

With comments describing Clark as "A professional whose perceptions are correct, whose plans are thorough and complete, whose executions are artistic and whose success is inevitable. I have never been more impressed with an officer's talent and dedication. He should rank with men like Douglas MacArthur, Maxwell Taylor and Creighton Abrams, someday. All he lacks is the time and opportunity to develop into out Army's Chief of Staff. If given these, he'll surely make it!" from L.G Nowak, his Tank Battalion/Cavalry Squadron commander in 1977.

And, from then-Gen. Colin Powell in 1982, "He is an officer of the rarest potential and will clearly rise to senior general officer rank." It is no wonder the campaign was eager to release the records.

The glowing record chronicles Clark's career from West Point, where he graduated top of his class in 1966, through 1993. Along the way he won such high military honors as a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. His career continued for another seven years after 1993, but the evaluations end when he earned his second star because officers at or above the rank of two-star general do not receive the same performance reviews, according to The New York Times.

The 1993 cutoff is important because it does not cover his career after he was in a senior command position and before the friction with the top brass appears to have started. For example, it was before he met and posed with Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian-Serb general accused of war crimes, against the orders of his superiors in 1994. And it is before the "integrity and character issues" that Gen. Henry H. Shelton referred to at a forum last month as reasons his post as commander of NATO ended early.

Another Day, Another Forum: If it's Thursday, it must be Des Moines and the AARP.

While many Americans (and we guess that included Iowans) were transfixed by the baseball playoffs, six Democratic candidates were slugging it out to become top dog for seniors. Thursday's event was highlighted by disagreements among the Democratic presidential candidates on whether repealing all of the Bush tax cuts for expanded health care would help or hurt middle-class Americans. Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry also re-ignited their fight over Medicare, a critical issue in a state where three-fourths of the Jan. 19 caucus-goers are expected to be 50 or older, and one-third of them over 65, according to the Des Moines Register.

In addition to Dean, Gephardt and Kerry, other Democratic wannabes in attendance at the two-hour events were John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley Braun.

Dean, who's been under fire in recent weeks from Kerry and Gephardt for his positions on Medicare reform in the 1990s as governor of Vermont, said: "The truth is there's a distinct difference between me and everybody else on this stage … I believe what we need in this country is someone who is going to put aside what's gone on in Washington the past 15 or 20 years and get something done."

Gephardt, who's argued during the campaign that his 27 years in Congress are an asset, not a liability, responded: "Some of the candidates are saying they're the outsider, that nothing good has ever happened in Washington on health care or the other issues that are in front of us … I'm proud of Medicare and Social Security. I will never back up on those programs."

On taxes, Edwards took aim at Gephardt and Dean, both of whom have called for a total repeal of President Bush's tax cuts. Edwards and others have called only for partial rollbacks, mainly affecting the wealthy. "To get this economy moving again, I can't tell you how strongly I disagree with Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, who want to raise taxes on the middle class," Edwards said. "I think that's an enormous mistake."

Gephardt replied: "Why would we want to keep a tax cuts that's failed? Why would we not want to go back to the Clinton tax code? And why would we not want to help every family with a health care plan like mine?"

Quote of the Day: "Once upon a time, the most successful Democratic leader of them all, FDR, looked south and said, 'I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.' Today our national Democratic leaders look south and say, 'I see one-third of a nation and it can go to hell.'" – Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller in his autobiography, "A National Party No More: the Conscience of a Conservative Democrat." (Roll Call)