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Stop the presses

ABC News reporter Brian Ross reports that Justice Antonin Scalia missed the September swearing-in of John G. Roberts Jr. as the new chief justice of the United States because Justice Scaliahad a prior commitment to attend a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society at a resort in Bachelor Gulch, Colo.

Mr. Ross, the network's chief investigative reporter, apparently was eager to pin something scandalous on the justice in his story at www.abcnews.go.com. He came up with this:

"One night at the resort, Scalia attended a cocktail reception, sponsored in part by the same lobbying and law firm where convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff once worked."

Mr. 'Nonpartisan'

Hill Democrats and the so-called mainstream media have made much of a recent Congressional Research Service report that asserted President Bush had violated the law by allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on phone calls to the United States from suspected terrorists overseas.

In fact, Democrats such as New York Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as most media outlets, have practically grafted the word "nonpartisan" to the front end of that agency's name.

However, this is Washington, and nothing is quite that simple. What you probably haven't heard is that the author of the report, Alfred Cumming, is a registered Democrat who served as staff director for the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence undersince-retired Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat.

And you probably haven't heard that in December the "nonpartisan" Mr. Cumming also authored a 15-page memo for the Congressional Research Service that shored up Democrats' claims that President Bush lied about pre-Iraq war intelligence.

That earlier report said the president and his most senior advisers have access to "a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence Information" than Congress.

The "nonpartisan" Mr. Cumming contributed $1,250 to Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, according to the Web site www.tray.com.

Rendell's rebuke

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, expressed disappointment yesterday in how some Democratic senators treated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. during recent confirmation hearings for the nominee to the Supreme Court.

"I wasn't pleased. Certainly, some [Democratic senators] did well and some didn't. I wasn't pleased at the nitpicking," Mr. Rendell told the Fox News Channel's Bill Hemmer.

"I believe he's a qualified judge. He sits on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. I don't know if you know this, Bill: My wife is a 3rd Circuit Court judge," Mr. Rendell said.

He added: "She has a high opinion of his integrity and his academic standards. She doesn't agree with him on a number of cases and agrees with him on some. ... As long as the Supreme Court justice is appointed who has high academic qualifications, significant integrity -- and Judge Alito certainly does -- we should confirm him, regardless of our disagreement on the way he may interpret one aspect of the law. I think we've fallen into just such partisanship in D.C.; not just in this, but in so many things, it's in some way ways tearing the country apart."

Knocking the troops

"I don't support our troops," Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein writes.

"If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of," Mr. Stein said.

"But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken -- and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest, but to remember to throw a parade afterward."

Mr. Stein said U.S. troops are engaged in an immoral struggle, "signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism."

"The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives."

'Whistleblowers'

"A former Defense Department analyst was sentenced to a harsh 12 years in prison Friday for disclosing classified information. That ought to get the attention of the person or persons who leaked the existence of the National Security Agency's highly classified wiretapping program to the New York Times," the Wall Street Journal says.

"Especially so since in sentencing Lawrence Franklin, the judge explicitly rejected a good-intentions defense. At Friday's hearing, federal Judge T.S. Ellis III agreed with Mr. Franklin's statement that he did not intend to damage the U.S. by revealing government secrets to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group and an Israeli Embassy official," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Mr. Franklin, who pleaded guilty in October, thought U.S. policy ought to be tougher on Iran, which he followed for the Pentagon. He said that he disclosed the classified information because he was 'frustrated' with the direction of government policy and thought he could influence it through 'back channels.' Supporters of the NSA-wiretap leakers likewise argue that it's OK to reveal classified data as long as you believe you are in the moral right and that the public would benefit from disclosure. The word for this supposedly virtuous action is 'whistleblower.'"

Pundits vs. critics

First, it was movie stars like Barbra Streisand and Sean Penn pretending to be political pundits.

Perhaps inspired by this example, political pundits decided to become movie critics. The movie critics apparently didn't appreciate the competition, and so now famous critic Roger Ebert'sWeb site (www.rogerebert.com) is taking to task two conservative commentators for their taste in films.

In a column by Mr. Ebert's editor, Jim Emerson, visitors to the site are asked to "try to guess which of two venomous, blonde-tressed scribes wrote blurbs about contemporary movies that may or may not have been used in the ad campaigns. Is it Ann Coulter? Or Debbie Schlussel? Or does it matter?" This is followed by excerpts of comments about such movies as "Brokeback Mountain," "Munich," and "Good Night and Good Luck," by Miss Coulter and Miss Schlussel.

At her own Web site (www.debbieschlussel.com), Miss Schlussel responds: "So does this mean Ann and I can now have our own movie review show?"

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

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