- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

Rumsfeld’s reply

George Stephanopoulos, the host of ABC’s “This Week,” found out yesterday just how feisty Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld can be.

“If you had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden was in Iran, do you think the United States has the right just to go in and get him without asking for permission?” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked.

Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “Obviously, you wouldn’t get permission.”

“That’s my point,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

“And those are questions for the president of the United States,” Mr. Rumsfeld continued.

“What would be your recommendation?” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked.

“I give my recommendations to the president of the United States, not to George Stephanopoulos,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

“I’ll try. I’ve got to keep trying, Mr. Secretary,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

Future politics

Over time, the fiscal crisis of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will begin to transform politics, New York Times columnist David Brooks writes.

“The parties will grow less cohesive. The Democrats are held together by the common goal of passing domestic programs that address national needs — like covering the uninsured. But with all the money going to cover entitlements, there will be no way to afford new proposals. Republicans, meanwhile, owe their recent victories to the popularity of tax cuts. But those will be impossible, too. Both parties will lose a core reason for being,” Mr. Brooks said.

“At the same time, Americans will grow even more disenchanted with the political status quo. Not only will there be a general distaste for the hyperpartisan style, but people will also begin to see how partisan brawling threatens the nation’s prosperity. They’ll read more books like ‘The Coming Generational Storm’ by Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns and ‘Running on Empty’ by Peter Peterson. They will be more aware of the looming disaster. As the situation gets worse, the prospects of change get better, because Americans will not slide noiselessly into oblivion.”

Mr. Brooks added: “The party alignments have been pretty stable over the past few generations, but there’s no reason to think they will be in the future. The Whig Party died. The Progressive Movement arose because the parties seemed stagnant a century ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if some anti-politician emerged — of the Schwarzenegger or Perot varieties — to crash through the current alignments and bust heads.”

Bishops’ campaign

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are preparing to begin what they call a major campaign to end the use of the death penalty in the United States.

A bishop’s aide told the Boston Globe that the bishops have been emboldened by two recent Supreme Court decisions that limit executions and by polls suggesting a dramatic increase in death-penalty opposition among U.S. Catholics.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick is scheduled to announced the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty at a news conference in Washington today. The campaign will include legislation, legal advocacy, education and a new Web site at ccedp.org.

“We think that, with a lot of work, the time will come, not too far down the road, when the United States no longer uses the death penalty,” said John Carr, director of social development and world peace at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The campaign marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S. bishops’ first major statement against the death penalty in 1980, United Press International reports.

Barbour for president?

“With the 2008 front-runners unable to wow the GOP and kill early presidential competition the way George W. Bush did four years ago, Republicans are sizing up newbies like Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“This month’s hottie is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Yup, the very same sweet-talking pol who used to chair the Republican National Committee wants to run for president, say friends who give him fair odds,” Mr. Bedard said.

“His strengths: As a former Reagan political aide, lobbyist, and GOP boss from 1993 to 1997, he’s got a fat Rolodex filled with names of backers and donors. The Yazoo City, Miss., native is also very popular with his folk and even the national media, who never tire of his Southern sayings — or snacks and drinks in his office.

The drawbacks: He’s up for re-election a year before the presidential race, and he doesn’t have the national following of front-runners like Sen.John McCain and ex-New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. But pals say those hurdles are no different from the ones cleared by another obscure Southern governor — Jimmy Carter.

New turf

An emergency-spending bill that passed the House last week includes $181 million requested by the White House for a new building to house the likely new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, and his staff, Time magazine’s Tim Burger reports.

Symbolically at least, it indicates that the intelligence director, who has the authority to hire 500 employees but whose role in the byzantine intelligence bureaucracy is still not entirely clear, will have a solid foothold in turf-conscious Washington, the reporter said.

The news came as a particular blow to Pentagon boosters, who are fearful the intelligence director will threaten the Defense Department’s 80 percent share of the $40 billion U.S. intelligence budget. It also struck some as odd that the matter would be addressed on an urgent basis.

“I’m looking into this, and I’ve asked for some information,” said Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican. “Why is it an emergency?” Mr. Tiahrt said the administration was leaning toward an expensive site in the Tysons Corner area of Fairfax County.

A source told the magazine that Mr. Negroponte may reject the Virginia location anyway, in favor of a spot closer to the White House.

Romney’s one-liner

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney cracked jokes at a roast yesterday, including a one-liner about same-sex “marriage.”

“I have to admit that as a Mormon, I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman — and a woman and a woman,” he said at the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast roast.

Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi asked Mr. Romney if he’d had trouble finding his way from the airport, the Associated Press reports.

“Are those tickets in your pocket?” Mr. DiMasi asked. “I don’t want to keep you too long. You can leave any time you want.”

Mr. Romney responded: “I’ll be here ‘til you get funny.”

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

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