- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Spanish in Senate

Freshman Sen. Mel Martinez, a Cuban immigrant, shattered a 216-year tradition of the U.S. Senate yesterday when he used the ceremonial occasion of his first floor speech to speak three sentences in Spanish.

In his eight-minute bilingual address, Mr. Martinez, Florida Republican, touted his support for friend and fellow Hispanic-American Alberto Gonzalez of Texas, President Bush’s nominee to be U.S. attorney general.

Mr. Martinez said Mr. Gonzalez’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate would “resonate” throughout the Hispanic community, Hearst Newspapers reports.

The so-called “maiden speech” of a senator is a historic moment for the freshman and often is used to define his or her priorities.

When Mr. Martinez broke into Spanish, followed by his own English translation, the stunned Senate stenographer looked up quizzically and just typed: “speaking Spanish.”

Using his native language, Mr. Martinez addressed those who came to America to make a better life for themselves, telling them: “Gonzales is one of us” — “uno de nosotros.”

Mr. Martinez also said in Spanish that Mr. Gonzales represents “all of our hopes and dreams for our children,” and that petty politics cannot be allowed “to deny us this moment” that makes us all proud.

Surprising statement

As was widely reported yesterday, the AFL-CIO’s political leadership on Tuesday decided against endorsing anyone in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Perhaps overlooked was the statement earlier in the day by the head of the International Association of Fire Fighters, urging organized labor not to become a servant of the Democratic Party.

“If the federation picks the DNC chair, then we have picked the party’s leader, and we are in effect a formal extension of the Democratic Party,” Harold Schaitberger said.

“To successfully advocate the issues, policies and agenda that advance the interests of working people, the AFL-CIO cannot be viewed as solely obligated or tied to one party. We must work with members of both political parties to be effective on our members’ behalf.”

The IAFF, with 267,000 members, is the 16th largest union among the 63 national unions that make up the AFL-CIO.

Dakota intrigue

A scheduled meeting today between President Bush and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven has the state speculating about Mr. Hoeven’s plans.

Mr. Hoeven, a Republican in his second term as governor, is to meet with Mr. Bush aboard Air Force One while the president visits North Dakota to rally support for his Social Security reform package, United Press International reports.

Some Republicans hope Mr. Hoeven can be persuaded to run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2006 against Democrat Kent Conrad.

An easy victor in his bid for a second term in 2004, winning 71 percent of the vote, Mr. Hoeven has been mum about his plans regarding a bid for a U.S. House or Senate seat in 2006.

Dueling polls

A national survey conducted for the group USA Next shows clear support for personal retirement accounts and a solid majority in support of “major reforms” of the Social Security system, contradicting an AARP poll released last week.

USA Next said the AARP survey was “terribly flawed,” noting that it did not poll anyone younger than 30 even though 18- to 29-year-olds made up almost 20 percent of the voters in the presidential election last year.

“Our poll is far more representative of all the American people,” said USA Next Chief Executive Officer Charlie Jarvis.

“Fifty-two percent of the public supports President Bush’s policy of creating personal retirement accounts while assuring retirees and near-retirees will be protected.”

Mr. Jarvis added: “AARP is a liberal group with a truth-in-polling problem, and the survey they released last week reflected that liberalism and did a disservice to the public.”

USA Next is a national grass-roots association that calls itself a champion for “families to have expanded financial freedom, health freedom, retirement freedom, and tax freedom.” Art Linkletter is its national chairman.

Award winners

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has announced that the Bradley Prizes to honor outstanding achievement will be given to Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George F. Will, American Civil Rights Institute founder Ward Connerly, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald and Princeton University professor Robert George.

“These outstanding individuals are being recognized for achievements that are consistent with the mission statement of the foundation, including the promotion of liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, and a vigorous defense of American institutions,” said Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive officer of the foundation.

The recipients will be presented the awards during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 16. Each award carries a stipend of $250,000.

Each recipient was selected based on nominations solicited from more than 100 prominent people. The winners were chosen by a selection committee that included Mr. Grebe, Robert H. Bork, Pete du Pont, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Thomas L. Rhodes, Dianne J. Sehler and Thomas L. Smallwood.

Eyeing the Senate

Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla plans to run for the Senate from Texas if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to run for governor next year.

Mr. Bonilla said he would not challenge the senator, a fellow Republican, if she decides to run for re-election, the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday.

“We all support Kay if she wants to run for re-election, but if she makes a decision for whatever reason to move on, I’m in,” Mr. Bonilla told the paper.

Mrs. Hutchison has said she will make a decision by summer on whether to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary.

Ready for 2006

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch turns 71 next month, but the Utah Republican tells reporter Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times that he definitely will seek election to a sixth term in 2006.

Mr. Hatch, the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, also said that if Democrats insist on filibustering judicial nominees, they invite a public backlash that will make them a permanent minority.

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

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