- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

Romney’s response

Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, who is weighing a White House bid, dismissed criticism that he has flip-flopped on the issues of same-sex “marriage” and abortion and has reaffirmed his opposition to both.

“Like the vast majority of Americans, I’ve opposed same-sex marriage, but I’ve also opposed unjust discrimination against anyone, for racial or religious reasons, or for sexual preference,” Mr. Romney said in an interview with the National Review magazine published online yesterday.

Regarding abortion, Mr. Romney said — as he has said previously — that although he campaigned for governor as pro-choice, he changed his position several years ago after being briefed on embryonic stem-cell research.

“I’m committed to promoting the culture of life,” the Massachusetts governor told the conservative magazine. “Like Ronald Reagan and Henry Hyde and others who became pro-life, I had this issue wrong in the past.”

The comments were Mr. Romney’s first public explanation of his stance on the two key social issues since the publication last week of a 1994 letter — sent in the final weeks of his failed campaign against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — in which he cited his sensitivity to the concerns of Log Cabin Republicans, the Republican homosexual group.

Kerry’s big trip

Sen. John Kerry told reporters in Egypt yesterday that the United States should talk to Syria and Iran.

Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said he thought U.S. policy in the Middle East was in trouble, partly because the United States had failed to listen to people in the region, Reuters news agency reports.

He cited Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s advice in 2002 that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would lead to disaster. “Frankly, more people should have listened to him,” he said after talks in Cairo with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

“It’s very important for countries to talk to each other, even when you disagree. We have serious differences with Syria right now, we have serious differences with Iran, but you can’t begin to resolve those differences if you’re not willing to try to understand. I think it’s important to begin a discussion,” Mr. Kerry said.

Mr. Kerry left the United States on Wednesday for a nine-day visit to the Middle East, including Iraq and a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, but not a visit to Iran.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida met Mr. Assad in Damascus on Wednesday and said he saw an opening for dialogue with Syria.

Flunked the test

“As Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi’s choice to be the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes will share responsibility for the budgets and oversight of U.S. spy agencies, as well as receive regular briefings on classified intelligence. But it appears he first needs a remedial course on America’s terrorist enemies,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“In an interview with Congressional Quarterly, Mr. Reyes was unable to answer basic questions about the sectarian nature of both al Qaeda and Hezbollah. ‘Predominantly — probably Shi’ite,’ he responded when asked about the strain of Islam that animates al Qaeda. The truth is that al Qaeda is composed of Sunni extremists who slaughter Iraqi Shi’ites on a daily basis. And when CQ’s reporter turned to Hezbollah, Mr. Reyes said, ‘Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock?’ Perhaps because he’s only had 23 years since the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror group blew up the Beirut Marine barracks to figure that one out,” the newspaper said.

“It’s not as if House Democrats didn’t have a qualified candidate for the Intelligence Committee chair. That would be California’s Jane Harman, who served with distinction as ranking member in the current Congress. But Ms. Pelosi thought Ms. Harman was too hawkish and not partisan enough in opposing Bush administration policy.”

Hillary’s invitation

New Hampshire Democrats have invited New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the featured speaker at a major fundraiser early next year, and the potential presidential candidate is considering the invitation.

The trip would be Mrs. Clinton’s first to the early presidential primary state in more than 10 years. Her last visit was in October 1996, when the then-first lady campaigned for Democratic candidates, including her husband’s re-election bid.

The New Hampshire fundraiser — known as the “100 Club” fundraiser — is usually held in February or early March.

Nick Clemons, the state party’s executive director, said Mrs. Clinton has not accepted the invitation and no date has been set, the Associated Press reports.

“We have invited Senator Clinton, and we’d like very much for her to be our guest,” he said yesterday.

Mrs. Clinton has been conferring with Iowa and New Hampshire party activists as well as hiring staff for an expected presidential run.

Drafting Obama

The first “Barack Obama for President” ad will begin airing early next week air on New Hampshire TV station WMUR and some cable news outlets, the Manchester Union Leader reports.

The 60-second spot is the work of Maryland-based draftObama.org and features a collage of photos of Mr. Obama making speeches and meeting with people while he speaks about the raising the minimum wage, improving education and the lives of seniors, and about a new direction for foreign policy, the newspaper said.

The ad begins with the written words, “We can replace fear,” superimposed over a photo of President Bush, “with hope.” It ends with the written words, “Believe again.”

According to group spokesman Kris Schultz, a former executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the ad was produced by Bud Jackson and John Hlinko, who produced an effective ad for a draft Wesley Clark movement in 2003.

Pataki’s pension

Even though he’ll be unemployed next year, Republican Gov. George E. Pataki still may get more than $100,000 from New York as he wages a likely bid for the presidency.

Mr. Pataki, who is retiring after 12 years as New York governor, has filed for a state pension that could pay him more than $113,000 a year, state officials said yesterday.

Officials said the governor has filed the paperwork that would make him eligible to start collecting a state pension after Jan. 1, the Associated Press reports.

Based on his length of public service and age — he will be 62 in June — a benefits calculator available from the state showed the governor could collect a pension worth more than $113,000 a year. That number could be reduced depending on the date he begins collecting benefits and the options he selects for dealing with survivor benefits.

As governor, Mr. Pataki is paid $179,000 a year.

Mr. Pataki has more than 30 years of government employment, including three years as mayor of Peekskill, eight years in the state Assembly and two years in the state Senate.

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

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