McCain folds Confederate flag

Straight talk for South Carolina as veep whispers grow. Bush wants the poor homeward-bound and New York wants greedy pols out of town.

By Alicia Montgomery
Published April 19, 2000 2:09PM (EDT)

John McCain is expected to call on South Carolina to pull down the Confederate flag that currently flies atop its Statehouse, reports the New York Times. Sources close to the Arizona senator say McCain is seeking to atone for his indecisive stand when he campaigned in South Carolina. During his bruising primary battle in the state, McCain waffled on the flag issue, at one point calling it "a symbol of racism," then the next day "a symbol of heritage." A Confederate army heritage and revelations that his family once owned slaves both make the flag issue a highly personal one for McCain.

The reversal angers some of the senator's South Carolina supporters. The State, a paper based in Columbia, reports that former McCain campaign official Ed Walker finds nothing redeeming in McCain's change of heart. "I got bamboozled," said Walker, an officeholder in the state's Sons of Confederate Veterans organization. "I lost all respect for John McCain."

Reread his lips

Though McCain has said repeatedly that he has no interest in the vice presidency, the Washington Post reports that George W. Bush is reconsidering his former rival as running mate material. McCain has yet to endorse the Texas governor's White House bid, but Bush plans to revisit the veep issue during a May 9 meeting with McCain. "I'll find out how uninterested or interested he is," Bush said. "I just really want to look him in the eye and visit with him on that."

No place like home

Bush has unveiled yet another program in his seemingly boundless anti-poverty initiative. The New York Times reports that the latest Bush plan would give $1.7 billion in tax incentives to developers that built in struggling neighborhoods. After Bush made the plan public during a Michigan campaign stop, Al Gore's team immediately dismissed it as one of many expensive, ill-considered programs that Bush has backed. "He keeps making promises he can't pay for, because of his enormous tax giveaway for the rich," said Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway.

Bush announced his new housing program during a $1,000-a-plate luncheon in Michigan held in his honor. Even if Bush can't pay for the program, the Detroit Free Press reports that Bush's Michigan jaunt more than paid for itself. The Texas governor collected $400,000 for his campaign during his visit to the state.

Political panhandling gets Bronx cheer

Politicians passing the plate have worn out New York's elite, reports the New York Observer. Sky-high campaign costs have candidates dialing for dollars across the "ATM state." "It's never been worse," said developer Donald Trump. "I'm called by everyone, from friends to people that I've never heard of to people who represent states I've never heard of and have never been to." Some donation seekers even make Hillary Rodham Clinton look like a native New Yorker. "We get calls all the time," said John Catsimatidis, chairman of Red Apple Group. "A guy says, 'I'm running for Senate,' or whatever, in some state. We say, 'What's your name again?'"

Hey, big spender!

While the rich in New York may give candidates the cold shoulder on donations, the Washington Post reports that others are opening their wallets wide. Political candidates and parties are pocketing more six-figure gifts than ever, with little more than clubby gimmicks being offered in return. The Bush campaign calls its $100,000 givers "Pioneers," while the Republican National Committee titles members of the $250,000 club "Regents." Those vying for a spot on the Democrats' "Leadership 2000" committee include Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. But so far, he has given only $250,000, well short of the $350,000 required of "Leaders."

Return to sender

The New York Post reports that Hillary Clinton returned a $22,000 contribution tainted by the donor's ties to the drug trade. Donor Vivian Mannerud Verble, owner of a charter plane business operating between Miami and Cuba, served as a go-between for Cuban-American Jorge Cabrera and the Democratic National Committee in 1995. Cabrera, who at that time donated $20,000 to the DNC, is now in federal prison, sentenced to 19 years for bringing cocaine into the United States. Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said of Verble's donation, "We are returning the money because the donation was inappropriate."

Little boy lost

Returning Elian Gonzalez to his father has been a low priority for Republicans and Democrats alike, and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd takes Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to task for their handling of the standoff. Recounting months of accommodations to the boy's Miami relatives by embattled Attorney General Janet Reno, Dowd blasts the Clinton cabal -- the president, Gore and especially the first lady -- for not speaking up on Elian's behalf. "The first lady casts herself as a defender of children," Dowd writes, "but she's too busy actualizing her
self-worth in New York to worry about a real child's psyche being razed by a vengeful village."

Whom should you vote for?

Take our survey and find out. You might be surprised.

Poll positions

Presidential race:

  • Bush 44 to Gore 42 (Newsweek April 13-14).

  • Bush 45 to Gore 37 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll April 5-6).

  • Bush 50 to Gore 41 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 7-9).

  • Bush 45 to Gore 40 (Marist College April 3-5).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 42 (Zogby April 1-4).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • John McCain, 27 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • Rudy Giuliani, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 6 percent
  • George Pataki, 3 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 3 percent
  • Connie Mack, 2 percent
  • Other, 3 percent
  • Not sure, 28 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    New York Senate:

  • Clinton 52 to Giuliani 42 (New York Times/CBS News April 1-5).

  • Clinton 46 to Giuliani 43 (Quinnipiac College March 28-April 3).

  • Giuliani 46 to Clinton 43 (Marist Institute March 27-28).

  • Clinton 45 to Giuliani 42 (Zogby March 23-25).

    On the trail

    Bush: Texas.

    Gore: New Jersey.

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at

  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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