- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Election scandal

“The new media — talk radio, bloggers and independent watchdog groups — have followed up their success in exposing Dan Rather’s use of phony memos by showcasing another scandal: Washington state’s bizarre race for governor, which features a vote count so close and compromised it allows Florida to retire the crown for electoral incompetence,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“If Democrat Christine Gregoire, who leads by 129 votes and is scheduled to take the office Wednesday, eventually has to face a new election, it will have been in large part because of the new media’s ability to give the story altitude before it reached the courts,” Mr. Fund said. …

“In Washington state, the errors by election officials have been compared to the antics of Inspector Clouseau, only clumsier. At least 1,200 more votes were counted in Seattle’s King County than the number of individual voters who can be accounted for. … More than 300 military personnel who were sent their absentee ballots too late to return them have signed affidavits saying they intended to vote for [Republican candidate Dino Rossi.] Some 1 out of 20 ballots in King County that officials felt were marked unclearly were ‘enhanced’ with Wite-Out or pens so that some had their original markings obliterated.

“Most disturbing is the revelation last week by King County officials that at least 348 unverified provisional ballots were fed directly into vote-counting machines.”

Philosopher needed

“In a document shot through with agnosticism, perhaps the most agnostic section of the CBS Report is a six-page segment toward the end titled, ‘Whether There Was a Political Agenda Driving the September 8 Segment,’” Jonathan V. Last writes at the Weekly Standard Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“The panel acknowledges that some sectors of the media had imputed political bias to Rathergate. So diligence required that the panel ask both Dan Rather and Mary Mapes, directly, whether or not they had been politically motivated: ‘Both strongly denied that they brought any political bias to the segment.’

“Surprising? Not really. It seems unlikely that either Rather or Mapes would even perceive their own political bias — and even more unlikely that they would cop to it if they did perceive it. Yet for [panel co-chairmen former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis D. Boccardi], their denial is enough, since ‘The panel will not level allegations for which it cannot offer adequate proof.’ …

“The report tells us that Mapes and Rather had pursued the story for five years; that they used a number of anti-Bush sources as key components of the story; that they tried to use a ‘gratuitous’ and ‘inflammatory’ interview with [retired Army Col. David Hackworth]; and that Mapes attempted to put [former Texas National Guard member] Bill Burkett in contact with the Kerry campaign.

“Thornburgh and Boccardi view all of these facts and then turn away, saying that there is no ‘persuasive evidence of a political agenda.’ …

“The CBS report can find evidence of political bias — they admit and document as much; they just can’t reach any metaphysical conclusions about why that evidence exists. The esteemed panel has a journalist and an attorney general. Perhaps they should have included a philosopher, too.”

Indiana’s new chief

Republican Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. was sworn in yesterday as Indiana’s 49th governor at a ceremony at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

Mr. Daniels pledged to get right to work after the ceremony by signing executive orders at the Statehouse and sending his two-year budget to state lawmakers.

Mr. Daniels defeated Gov. Joe Kernan in the November general election to break a 16-year Democratic stranglehold on the state’s top office. Mr. Kernan succeeded the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon, who suffered a fatal stroke in September 2003.

Mr. Daniels will outline his legislative proposals to the state’s 6 million residents when he delivers his first State of the State address Jan. 18, the Indianapolis Star said.

Mr. Daniels was to host a public open house at the governor’s office last night, United Press International reports.

‘Isolated incident’

The White House yesterday said the Education Department’s $240,000 payment to conservative syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams to advocate its No Child Left Behind policy was an isolated incident, not a practice widely used by the Bush administration.

“Questions have been raised about that arrangement; it ought to be looked into, and there are ways to look into matters of that nature,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, adding that Education Department lawyers have taken up the matter.

The Government Accountability Office is already investigating whether the department illegally promoted the No Child Left Behind Act with a video that looks like a news story, and also is reviewing why the department paid for rankings of how reporters are covering the law.

Democratic Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts yesterday asked the GAO to expand that investigation to include the payment to Mr. Williams, the Associated Press reports.

Not ‘stingy’

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, the richest member of President Bush’s Cabinet, made a $10,000 contribution to humanitarian groups providing relief to the nations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Bloomberg News reports.

Following the lead of Mr. Bush, who last week made a $10,000 relief contribution, Mr. Snow and his wife gave money to an international relief agency, spokesman Rob Nichols said.

Mr. Snow, chief executive officer of railroad CSX Corp. from 1986 until 2002, is worth nearly $100 million, according to financial-disclosure forms released last year. He became Treasury secretary in February 2003.

Diplomatic rockers

At a downtown club in New York City, Tommy Ramone listened carefully to a band unlike any other. On drums: the U.S. ambassador to Russia. On lead guitar: the Hungarian ambassador to the United States.

“They’re great,” declared Mr. Ramone, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The C.J.T.F. Band — an insiders’ reference to NATO’s Combined Joint Task Force — also includes Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. on bass guitar and guitarist Dan Poneman, an old Washington hand and an authority on North Korea. At stage center was a defense and intelligence technology consultant, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, for years guitarist for the Doobie Brothers.

The proceeds of Saturday’s show at the Knitting Factory, expected to total about $5,000, are going to the victims of Asia’s tsunami.

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

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