Charges of excessive coziness between the Bush family and the Saudis, last seen in theaters during "Fahrenheit 9/11," have made it to the small screen.
Two new ads from the Media Fund, a liberal advocacy group, question whether the president's family and the "wealthy," "powerful" and "corrupt" royal family in Riyadh are "too close for comfort."
Admaker Steve McMahon says the effort is to tie Bush to a country that has some religious schools teaching anti-Americanism and is at least partly responsible for $2-a-gallon gasoline.
"This is an attack line from Michael Moore's movie and shows how fundamentally out of the mainstream John Kerry and the party he leads have become," said Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt, dismissing what he called "fictitious conspiracy theories."
One ad says Bush blocked release of part of a congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- "28 pages of evidence that the Saudi government funded the terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans. . . . Was it to protect his Saudi friends?" Numerous lawmakers protested the decision, which the White House said was to protect national security secrets.
The ad also invokes a former secretary of state: "Or was Bush helping Jim Baker -- a top adviser whose law firm is defending the Saudis in a lawsuit against the victims' families?" The second ad notes that "the Saudis have invested tens of millions of dollars in Bush business ventures."
Fox News rejected the ad as having "no actual evidence," Vice President Dianne Brandi said. She also turned down the latest spot from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth because it "accuses Kerry of treason, a crime punishable by death."
Tim Russert will get his moment in the Florida sun.
Republican Senate candidate Mel R. Martinez had turned down an offer from NBC affiliates for a debate with Democrat Betty Castor, moderated by the "Meet the Press" host. "We just prefer that we have a Florida moderator" and that the debate "not be overshadowed" by Russert, Martinez spokeswoman Jennifer Coxe said Wednesday. The stations said no Russert, no debate.
But after a Washington Post inquiry -- as well as polls showing a tight race and some rough local headlines, such as the Tampa Tribune's "Tim Russert Is Being Mean to Me, Mommy!" -- the former secretary of housing and urban development changed his mind yesterday. "The most important issue here is whether the people of Florida get to see Betty Castor and Mel Martinez debate the issues," Coxe said.
A GOP Vote for, Well, Some Republican
Remaining true to his reputation as one of the most independent and unpredictable senators, Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.) has let it be known that he may not vote for President Bush on Nov. 2.
He could end up casting a write-in vote for a Bush, however: the president's father, former president George H.W. Bush.
Chafee, who was appointed to the Senate in 1999 after the death of his father, John H. Chafee, has often voted with Democrats. He has differed with the Bush administration on issues including tax cuts, the Iraq war, abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research.
Still, it came as a bit of a surprise last weekend when he told a science seminar in Rhode Island that he would vote for a Republican in the presidential election, but not necessarily the incumbent. In any case, he said, he intends to remain a Republican.
Chafee's comments followed a speech in which he assailed administration policies, including opposition to fuel-efficiency standards and support for oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Chafee did not say whose name he was thinking of writing in on Election Day. But his spokesman, Stephen Hourahan, said it would probably be Bush's father. Chafee admired the elder Bush's fiscal policies and his coalition-building for the Persian Gulf War, Hourahan said. Also, he noted, Chafee's father was close to the former president.
All other GOP senators -- along with one Democrat, Zell Miller (Ga.) -- are supporting President Bush.
Nader a No-Go in Oregon
The Oregon Supreme Court has ordered independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader off the state's Nov. 2 ballot. The decision, which overturned a lower court's ruling, upheld the decision of state elections officials this month to reject Nader's bid for the ballot in this battleground state, citing irregularities in his petitions. The Nader camp said it would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2000, when he ran for president under the Green Party's banner, Nader won more than 77,000 voters in Oregon. Democrat Al Gore won the state by less than 1 percent of the vote.
But this year, Nader twice failed to take advantage of an unusual state law that would have allowed him to sidestep its 15,306-signature requirement by gathering 1,000 voters for a nominating convention. His petition officially fell 218 signatures short.
Staff writer Helen Dewar and political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.