- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Apology sought

Former Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele yesterday called on Democratic Party chief Howard Dean to apologize for making what they termed “racially insensitive remarks.”

“We are simply outraged over recent racially insensitive remarks made by Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean,” the two Republicans said in a joint statement.

“In his comments to the Democratic Black Caucus, Dean equates African-Americans who support Republicans to hired help. This kind of backward thinking reminds us of a horrible time in history when blacks were only seen as servants.”

Mr. Dean, at a meeting with the black Democratic group on Friday, said: “You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here.”

Apology sought II

Howard Dean, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called on the head of New York’s Republican Party to apologize or resign over remarks linking the Democrats to a civil rights lawyer convicted of aiding terrorists.

Mr. Dean called Stephen Minarik’s comments offensive and said, “The American people deserve better than this type of political character assassination.”

On Monday, Mr. Minarik said Mr. Dean’s election shows that “the Democrats simply have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart and Howard Dean.”

Stewart is a New York lawyer convicted last week of helping terrorists by smuggling messages from one of her imprisoned clients, a radical Egyptian sheik, to his terrorist disciples on the outside. Mrs. Boxer is a liberal senator from California.

Mr. Minarik issued a statement yesterday saying “it is not the Republican Party’s problem that these far-left activists have made their home in the Democratic Party.”

Dean debate

Howard Dean, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, requested a media blackout of a debate with top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, then quickly changed his mind yesterday after news agencies complained, the Associated Press reports.

“DNC Chair Howard Dean has declared a news blackout of his appearance and requested the media not quote, record, and/or paraphrase his remarks,” event coordinator Gabrielle Williams wrote in an e-mail sent to news agencies yesterday morning. “We apologize for the late notice, but we were just informed of this request.”

Less than two hours later, Miss Williams called to say: “We were told just a few minutes ago that it is now open” for media coverage. The decision to open today’s debate came roughly 30 minutes after an inquiry by the AP.

Dean spokeswoman Laura Gross said her boss had decided the event would be closed before he was elected DNC chairman Saturday, but changed his mind because of his new job.

Fighting spirit

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease yesterday, according to his staff.

He will undergo chemotherapy every two weeks for the next 24 to 32 weeks, but his office said Mr. Specter “will be able to perform all duties of his office, including those related to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee.”

Mr. Specter had been experiencing persistent fevers and enlarged lymph nodes under his left arm and above his left clavicle and went in for tests earlier this week. Several biopsies revealed Hodgkin’s disease, which is a cancer of the lymph system and is diagnosed in 7,500 new U.S. patients each year.

Mr. Specter’s oncologist said there is a five-year survival rate of 70 percent for this type and stage of disease.

“Senator Specter has an excellent chance of being completely cured of his Hodgkin’s disease,” said Dr. John H. Glick, Mr. Specter’s doctor at the University of Pennsylvania. “He is in superb physical condition, particularly in light of his daily squash regimen.”

Mr. Specter sounded undeterred by the disease, saying in a statement that “I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents. And I’m going to beat this, too.”

Milwaukee trial

Five Democratic campaign staffers ” including the sons of a congresswoman and a former Milwaukee mayor ” were ordered Tuesday to stand trial in the vandalizing of Republican get-out-the-vote vans in Milwaukee on Election Day.

The five are accused of slashing the tires of 25 vans rented by the Wisconsin GOP to drive voters and monitors to the polls. The felony charge carries a maximum punishment of 3 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Arraignment was set for March 4.

The defendants include the sons of Wisconsin Rep. Gwen S. Moore and former acting Mayor Marvin Pratt.

At a preliminary hearing, Levar Stoney and Opel Simmons, two Democratic presidential campaign workers sent to Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign, testified they were in the Milwaukee headquarters when the five left just after 3 a.m. Election Day and returned shortly after.

“They seemed to be excited, excitable, kind of gleeful, laughing and kind of joking,” Mr. Simmons said.

Mr. Stoney said Michael Pratt, the former acting mayor’s son, talked about slashing a couple of tires, and Ms. Moore’s son, Sowande Omokunde, also talked about the vandalism. He said at least one had a knife; he could not recall which one.

Softball questioners

“Stunned by the liberal mini-tempest over Talon News reporter ‘Jeff Gannon’ (real name: James Guckert) asking a softball question to President Bush on January 26, leaders of the White House Correspondents Association met with Bush press spokesman Scott McClellan Tuesday to discuss tightening up the press-credentialing process,” Tim Graham writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Liberal media elitists say they want only ‘real’ journalists, not ‘partisan operatives,’ to be allowed in the White House briefing room. But what they really might wind up accomplishing with their ‘Gannongate’ pounding was the silencing of rare right-leaning voice in the White House press corps. To them, you can only be ‘authentic’ by pounding the president from the left,” said Mr. Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center.

“At the Columbia Journalism Review blog, Brian Montopoli claims ‘this isn’t a media bias issue, no matter how hard you spin it. … Real journalists, the ones who belong in press conferences, know that access to a president is a rare gift, and they know enough not to squander it. Gannon threw away his opportunity in favor of self-aggrandizing partisan spectacle. He put himself and his agenda ahead of the public good, and he did it in a manner so egregious that he left little doubt of his intentions. If both sides of the debate, blinded by partisan zeal, don’t realize that’s the real reason he had to go, they’ve missed the point.’

“Montopoli cannot be serious. If anyone who asked softball questions at the White House ‘had to go,’ the White House briefing room would have almost emptied out in the Clinton years. The problem for Montopoli and other liberals is they seem to think that the need for an adversarial press emerged in 2001, when President Bush was first inaugurated.”

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

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