- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

McConnell’s retort

The drumbeat forSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s scalp continued yesterday as reporters grilled Republican leaders over the prescient timing of Mr. Frist’s sale of stock in Hospital Corp. of America Inc. — just months before it tumbled 9 percent in one day this summer.

The company, founded by the Tennessee Republican’s family, saw its stock price dive after a poorer than expected earnings report, but Mr. Frist and company officials say Mr. Frist had no insider knowledge.

Despite dual investigations into the sale by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Republicans are standing by their man, Majority Whip Mitch McConnell said yesterday.

“The leader has the unequivocal support of our members,” said the Kentucky Republican, who handled Mr. Frist’s leadership duties on the Senate floor yesterday. “We’ve taken a look at the situation. We think that he handled it correctly, and he enjoys total support in our conference, as nearly as I can ascertain.”

Asked what he thought about Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s typically harsh attack on Mr. Frist over the issue, Mr. McConnell tried suppressing a smile before letting loose.

“I sure hope Howard Dean never steps down as chairman of the Democratic National Committee,” he said before taking the next question.

Air shortage

Things must be getting desperate over at Air America. Plagued by scandal and low ratings, the liberal radio network last week sent out a “mass e-mail pitch” begging its supporters for contributions, blogger Brian Maloney (radioequalizer.blogspot.com) reports.

In the e-mail, Air America CEO Danny Goldbergtells supporters: “To continue this great success story and start shaping the national debate the way that right-wing talk radio does every day, we’ve got to reach into every community in this country. We know we can’t achieve this next stage of growth without significant help from you, our loyal listeners.”

Through its “Air America Associate” program, the network promises to reward fans who contribute cash “gifts” to the network with free “benefits,” Mr. Maloney explains. “For $50, they’ll send three ‘official’ bumper stickers, while $100 gets a ‘stylish’ tote bag thrown in. The sucker who has everything might choose the $250 version, including the above and an on-air thanks from one of Air America’s talk hosts.”

Big spenders

“If Democrats retake the House next year, we can mark the start of the party’s resurgence to a speech Nancy Pelosi delivered on Capitol Hill last week,” Brendan Miniter writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“It was there, at a press conference called to attack Republicans over their response to Hurricane Katrina, that the House minority leader actually used the words ‘waste, fraud and abuse’ in talking about government spending,” Mr. Miniter said.

“What Ms. Pelosi and a few other Democrats seem to be figuring out in the wake of Katrina is that Americans aren’t happy with their government throwing billions of dollars around with little if any accountability. Therefore, she’s laying out a legislative agenda aimed at capturing the mantle of fiscal responsibility.

“So far that agenda includes calling for an ‘antifraud commission’ to look into Katrina spending as well as an independent examination — modeled after the 9/11 commission — of the government’s response to the monster storm. And, of course, her party has long attacked Republicans for deficit spending and no-bid contracts to Halliburton in Iraq. A Halliburton subsidiary is already coming under scrutiny for receiving a contract to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.

“What Ms. Pelosi is now counting on is that as Republican spending goes through the roof, obstructionism might finally pay off for Democrats.

“This may come as a shock to some on the right. It shouldn’t. Republicans have held the House for almost 12 years and have occupied the White House for all but eight of the past 25 years, yet they have failed to shut off the spending valves in Washington. It was only a matter of time before Democrats ran against wasteful Republican spending.”

Byrd’s campaign

Plunging into what likely will be the toughest — and final — campaign in a political career that has spanned seven decades, Sen. Robert C. Byrd officially kicked off his 2006 re-election bid yesterday.

“I have the best job in America because I represent you, the people of West Virginia. And I want to keep this job,” Mr. Byrd told an enthused crowd of several hundred supporters who packed the Capitol Rotunda in Charleston.

Vying for a record ninth term, the former butcher and welder recalled how he began his political career as a state legislator 59 years ago. He served three terms in the U.S. House before first winning his Senate seat in 1958.

“I have given most of my life to serving the people of West Virginia,” the 87-year-old Democrat said. “I’m ready to go another round.”

Mr. Byrd was preceded by speakers who praised the oft-dubbed “Prince of Pork” for his ability to land large sums of federal funds for the Mountain State each year.

Republicans have made unseating Mr. Byrd a top priority. The senior senator has become a major critic of the Bush administration’s budget policies and its decision to invade Iraq.

Though at least four Republicans have announced plans to challenge Mr. Byrd, national Republican officials are courting Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. She is expected to announce later this fall whether she will run against Mr. Byrd or for a fourth House term.

Frum and CAIR

“The Canadian chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has forced conservative writer David Frum to eat crow,” Evan Gahr writes at www.chimpstein.com.

CAIR-CAN had served Mr. Frum with a notice of libel after he accused its leader of being sympathetic to terrorism in his column for the National Post, a Canadian newspaper.

In an “Editor’s Note” that appeared Sept. 17, the newspaper said in part: “David Frum and the National Post acknowledge that neither Sheema Khan nor the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada advocates or promotes terrorism.”

Can’t win

“Too slow on Katrina, too quick on Rita? During Saturday’s special hourlong NBC Nightly News, reporter KevinCorke suggested President Bush ran ‘the risk of looking like a political opportunist’ with Hurricane Rita by taking exactly the active hands-on approach demanded by media critics in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last month,” Rich Noyes writes at the Media Research Center’s blog NewsBusters.org.

“The liberal media are never satisfied,” Mr. Noyes added.

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