- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Press tamer?

“As the first TV pundit ever to be named White House press secretary, Tony Snow could reinvent the job by becoming a clear, unabashed advocate for President Bush — who badly needs one,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“News has totally changed in the era of 24/7 cable, talk radio and blogging, but the Bush press shop is stuck in the past and Snow could bring it into the 21st century because he knows new media,” Miss Orin said.

” ‘He could conceivably become the Rush Limbaugh of the podium,’ said presidential scholar Stephen Hess of George Washington University.

” ‘Reporters are going to enjoy locking horns with him. … David Gregory [NBC’s aggressive reporter] ain’t in his league as far as understanding Washington, even though he thinks he is.”

“The TV-handsome Snow, a father of three, has been a Fox News Channel anchor, talk-radio host, editorial writer for a host of conservative newspapers, White House speechwriter for Bush’s father, newspaper columnist and blogger.

“Journalists, but never a pundit, have held the job, and not in such a partisan era — facing off against a White House press corps that almost certainly voted en masse against Bush in 2000 and 2004.”

The new guy

“With the appointment of Tony Snow the first round of staff changes seems ended, and the desired effect is achieved: a new start, with new people,” Peggy Noonan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“The sense of newness will last for a while because the reporters who tell us the news need a storyline. They need, as they say, a narrative. The narrative they will go with now is: ‘Staff Changes Being Felt Throughout White House/May Signal Policy Changes.’

“The next story line will either be ‘Staff Changes Fail to Stop Listless Drift’ or ‘Shakeups Yielded New Dynamism.’

“So the story now is change, and the story a few months from now is the change that change wrought.

“This is a time of opportunity. White House staffers can work to help create the future headline they want,” Miss Noonan said.

“As a public face of the White House, Tony Snow will likely get a good start. His remarks to the press [Wednesday] — ‘Believe it or not, I want very much to work with you’ — were gracious, and showed legitimate sympathy for the press corps. They have hard jobs and operate under many pressures, from uncomprehending editors in the bubble back in the newsroom to officials who try to jerk them around to executive producers in New York who don’t like their hair. …

“Mr. Snow’s White House press briefings are going to be nice to watch. The press does not want to appear to be ungracious and oppositional. They have an investment in demonstrating that the tensions each day in Scott McClellan’s press briefings, with David Gregory’s rants and Helen Thomas’ free-form animosities, were the fault of Mr. McClellan, not the press.

“So they will start out gracious with Tony. Good. Everyone involved will benefit from turning the page.”

Governor fined

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was fined $1,500 by the state ethics commission yesterday for illegally soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists.

The case involved an April 12 e-mail that the Democrat’s re-election campaign sent to 92,000 supporters. Among those supporters, 39 appeared to be lobbyists, and 16 registered lobbyists received the e-mail, according to testimony before the commission.

State law prohibits legislators, statewide officials and candidates for those offices from seeking contributions from lobbyists, corporations and political action committees while the Legislature remains in session, the Associated Press reports.

Mrs. Sebelius’ staff had described the e-mail as an update on education, but at the bottom was a link to the governor’s campaign Web site, where people can make a contribution. The link said: “Make a contribution.”

Libby loses out

A federal judge yesterday refused to dismiss charges against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former top White House aide who was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges last year in the CIA leak scandal.

In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton turned down a motion by attorneys for Vice President Dick Cheney’s one-time top assistant, who challenged the authority of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald to handle the case, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Libby’s attorneys had argued that Mr. Fitzgerald was given too much power — more than the attorney general — and that the appointment should have been made by the president with the Senate’s approval.

Judge Walton said yesterday that he did not need to “look far” in the law to reject the claim by Mr. Libby’s attorneys. The judge said there is no question the attorney general can delegate any of his functions.

“There was no wholesale abdication of the attorney general’s duty to direct and supervise litigation,” he wrote.

John Ashcroft, who was attorney general at the time, had recused himself from the investigation because of his White House contacts. James B. Comey, who was deputy attorney general at the time, appointed Mr. Fitzgerald, giving him wide berth to conduct the investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame to reporters in 2003.

“This case provides the clearest example of why such broad discretion is necessary,” Judge Walton wrote. “Here, the attorney general believed there was a conflict of interest. … It was, therefore, entirely appropriate for the attorney general to remove himself completely from the investigation.”

Protecting primary

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch yesterday signed a law designed to protect the state’s first-in-the-nation primary even as Democrats moved ahead on changing the presidential calendar.

The law gives the secretary of state additional flexibility in adjusting the filing period for candidates running for president, the Associated Press reports. The secretary of the state is directed by state law to set New Hampshire’s primary at least seven days ahead of any similar contest.

National Democrats, concerned about the homogeneity of voters in the early voting states, have announced plans to change the calendar by adding one or two caucuses after the Iowa caucuses but before the New Hampshire primary.

End of the road

Matt Brown, Rhode Island’s secretary of state, abandoned his bid Wednesday for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Sen. Lincoln Chafee after questions surfaced over his fundraising practices.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, cited money problems and endorsed his opponent for his party’s nomination, former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse.

“I simply will not have the resources in the final stretch to run successfully,” Mr. Brown told reporters.

In the Republican primary, Mr. Chafee faces Stephen Laffey, mayor of Cranston.

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

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