And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine:
Misinterpreted Her Message?
Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu says she's opposed to the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the federal appeals court in Washington and that she will support a filibuster to keep the nomination from coming to a vote. In doing so, she is breaking with fellow Louisiana Democrat John Breaux who is supporting Estrada and reversing the position she took in a Spanish language radio ad during her re-election campaign. After first saying she knew nothing of such an ad, Landrieu has now acknowledged that her campaign did run the ad, but she says she was actually neutral on the nomination at the time and blamed the Hispanics who produced the ad. "Unfortunately," she said, "some of my supporters in the Hispanic community who helped us produce the commercial misinterpreted my neutrality as a statement of support."
Inspection Ideas Not Unique
The idea now championed by the French of doubling or tripling the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq was actually first proposed last fall by U.S. officials before the current round of U.N. inspections had begun. But Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post reports that Blix nixed the idea, saying he couldn't find enough qualified people and would not be able to organize so many in a matter of months. And Hoagland reports that Blix gave the same answer when reporters asked him about the French idea in Athens on Monday.
It's not yet blossomed into a movement, but there are stirrings in Washington for a boycott of French products and even French tourism. A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert says his boss has some concerns about whether Evian water, bottled in France, meets health standards. And he's considering seeking bright warning labels on French wines that are clarified in a process that uses cattle blood. Congressman James Saxton of New Jersey has drafted a resolution that would call on both the U.S. government and American companies to boycott the annual Paris Air Show, which is considered the most important trade show for the aerospace industry.
Ban Lifted For Summit on Human Rights
France, meanwhile, has arranged an exception to the European Union's travel ban on the regime of Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe. The European Union slapped the sanctions on Mugabe, his family and associates last year because of concern over crooked elections and human rights atrocities, and renewed the ban yesterday. But the European Union gave France a temporary opt-out so that President Jacques Chirac can host Mugabe at a Franco-African summit on human rights starting next week. Britain objected to the waiver in a formal written reservation and even Germany joined in it.