- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Cheers and jeers

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, is the latest public figure to learn the perils of using a commencement address to make a political point.

Mr. Biden, speaking at his alma mater, the University of Delaware, “received applause and loud boos from the stands as he said there is still no evidence Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein was linked to the al Qaeda terror network, nor that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction,” according to an article in the News Journal, a Wilmington, Del., newspaper.

“Parents in the stands jeered or cheered while soon-to-be graduates sat quietly, dozed, bounced beach balls or yelled, ‘Happy Graduation!’” reporter Melissa Tyrrell said.

Fox vs. L.A. Times

Fox News chief Roger Ailes fired back at Los Angeles Times editor John S. Carroll yesterday, and he didn’t mince words.

Mr. Carroll “recently gave a speech at the University of Oregon, in which he attacked Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Channel and me, the chairman of Fox News,” Mr. Ailes noted at the outset in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

“However, Mr. Carroll obviously did not feel particularly restricted by facts, truth or sources. In an effort to use guilt by association, he compared me to Sen. Joseph McCarthy without evidence, sourcing or analysis. An old, cheap trick used by weak writers and thinkers. Mr. Carroll essentially announced that the reason Fox News Channel is the No. 1 cable news network and is gaining viewers is because the American people are stupid and gullible. In addition, he deliberately confused our highly rated news analysis and opinion shows like Bill O’Reilly with our hard news coverage.”

Mr. Ailes added, “Mr. Carroll’s pathetic attempt to smear Fox News Channel will only drive his paper’s circulation down, as it should. Fox News Channel’s audience in Los Angeles is increasing daily. The Los Angeles Times is becoming less relevant in people’s lives, so Mr. Carroll is trying to flog health back to a newspaper by attacking television news. …

“He owes the fine journalists at the Fox News Channel an apology for his insulting comments. However, we will never see that. He treated Fox News Channel worse in his newspaper than he treated the terrorists who recently beheaded an American. But of course, he sees Fox News as more dangerous.”

No ‘blank check’

The Republican-led Congress moved yesterday toward limiting President Bush’s flexibility in spending $25 billion he has requested for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan later this year.

The full Senate, a Senate committee and a House subcommittee considered three similar proposals that would provide all the money Mr. Bush wants, but deny his proposal for the authority to spend the funds with little say from Congress, the Associated Press reports.

At the Senate Appropriations Committee, two administration officials told Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, that his proposal — giving them control of $5 billion — provided enough flexibility.

Two other plans — one debated by the Senate, the other by a House subcommittee that oversees the Pentagon’s budget — would limit the president’s ability to shift money to $3 billion.

Mr. Stevens, whose panel will write legislation providing the money in coming weeks, said he was making the changes because of objections that Mr. Bush’s proposal would have provided the administration with a “blank check” for spending the funds.

That apology

“Last week, the New York Times issued an unusual mea culpa about the history of its Iraq coverage. This strange self-flagellation was published in multiple newspapers around the United States, and gained wide coverage in the blogosphere,” Christopher S. Carson writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Unfortunately, America’s ‘paper of record,’ in the wake of a steady accumulation of evidence of Iraqi WMD stocks and programs, and ties to al Qaeda, was not apologizing for the near-uniform negativity of its assessments of the Bush administration’s pre-war intelligence. The Times is sorry it wasn’t negative enough,” said Mr. Carson, a lawyer in Milwaukee.

“The ‘Correction’ article, published on May 26, started out with a healthy dose of self-hugging. ‘We found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of,’ it read. ‘In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies. … ‘

“But ‘looking back,’ the correction stated, ‘we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.’ The Times believes that its ‘problematic articles’ shared a common feature: They relied on those Iraqi ‘anti-Saddam campaigners’ hanging around [Ahmed] Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. The Times regrets that it and certain U.S. officials ‘fell for misinformation’ from these ‘exile sources.’ The only exile named is Chalabi.

“The logical extension of this surmise, then, is that the Times should have run even more anti-Chalabi hit pieces than it has already. But how could it? Almost every anti-Chalabi claim ever spun by the unnamed desk-bound solons in the CIA and State Department, no matter how ill-founded, found an instant national audience in the Times’ pages.”

Florida operative

“The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will be at the forefront of the general election campaign to hold [retiring Democratic Sen. Bob] Graham’s Senate seat, is quietly looking to hire a full-time operative based in Florida. The operative’s job: Tear down Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez,” the St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday.

Mr. Martinez, the former housing secretary under President Bush, is battling former Rep. Bill McCollum and others for the Republican nomination.

Yesterday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced the hiring of Alan Stonecipher to “craft communications message and strategy for Democratic efforts to win the U.S. Senate seat in Florida and … work with Democratic Senate candidates, county and state party leaders and political activists to build support for a Democratic victory in November.”

Mr. Stonecipher is a former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

Quote of the day

Moses will not have to appear as a witness in Salt Lake City, nor will he be asked to provide hearsay testimony about who dictated the Ten Commandments, a federal judge has decided.” — Salt Lake Tribune reporter Pamela Manson, writing about U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins’ dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the placement of a Ten Commandments monument in a city park. The judge ruled that the display is more historic than religious.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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