- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

Murtha’s ‘worry’

Rep. John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has come to national prominence since his call for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, said Thursday night that he worries about ‘a slow withdrawal, which makes it look like there’s a victory,’” Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Appearing at a town meeting in Arlington, Va., with fellow Democratic Rep.James Moran, Murtha said, ‘A year ago, I said we can’t win this militarily, and I got all kinds of criticism.’ Now, Murtha told the strongly anti-war audience, ‘I worry about a slow withdrawal, which makes it look like there’s a victory when I think it should be a redeployment as quickly as possible and let the Iraqis handle the whole thing.’

“The meeting, which attracted an overflow crowd, was promoted by the Internet activist group MoveOn.org, which said that ‘Congressman Moran has extended a special invitation to MoveOn members in his district and nearby.’ It was also promoted on some anti-war Web sites like afterdowningstreet.org. War supporters organized by the conservative freerepublic.com demonstrated outside,” Mr. York said.

Terrorist loopholes

“The Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretaps in the war on terrorism continues to generate controversy, and Congress is planning hearings,” the Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial.

“Some of the loopier elements of the Democratic Party have even suggested the wiretaps are grounds for impeachment. But the more we learn about the practice, the clearer it is that the White House has been right to employ and defend it,” the newspaper said.

“The issue is not about circumventing normal civilian constitutional protections, after all. The debate concerns surveillance for military purposes during wartime. No one would suggest the president must get a warrant to listen to terrorist communications on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan. But what the critics are really insisting on here is that the president get a warrant the minute a terrorist communicates with an associate who may be inside in the U.S. That’s a loophole only a terrorist could love.

“To the extent the president’s critics are motivated by anything other than partisanship, their confusion seems to involve a 1978 law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA provides a mechanism by which the executive can conduct warrant-approved surveillance under certain circumstances. But FISA covers only a limited number of intelligence-gathering scenarios. And no administration — Democrat or Republican — has recognized FISA as a binding limit on executive power.”

The newspaper added: “The upside of the coming congressional hearings, we guess, is that Americans will get a lesson in the Constitution’s separation of powers. We’re confident they’ll come away believing the Founders were right to the give the president broad war-fighting — including surveillance — powers.”

Permanent campaign

“A funny thing happened to the Bush Administration in 2005. It forgot the basics of politics today,” Pejman Yousefzadeh writes at www.tcsdaily.com.

“Fresh off an impressive re-election, President Bush and his political advisers seemed to think that they were entering a period when playing politics didn’t matter much. After all, the president would not be facing any more re-election campaigns and perhaps it was believed that the presence of Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress would give the administration sufficient elbow room to operate in a relatively nonpartisan manner.

“Add to that the belief that the Democrats would be dispirited and demoralized after the 2004 elections, and maybe it is easy to see in retrospect why the Bush Administration might have felt that the laws of politics would be suspended for at least a little while,” Mr. Yousefzadeh said.

“When considering the manifold political pratfalls this administration has experienced over the past year — from the complete failure of its Social Security reform campaign, to the Harriet Miers nomination debacle, to the dramatic loss of public support regarding the reconstruction of Iraq — a common theme emerges: The Bush administration forgot that a sine qua non of operating in the current political environment is acting as if there is a campaign going on.

“The permanent campaign demands that charges be answered swiftly by a rapid-response team that will be able to get out its message in the same news cycle as its opponents. The permanent political campaign demands that a political team understand that there is no such thing as ‘time off from politics’ and that it must continue to work to define the terms of debate surrounding the promotion of policy initiatives instead of letting opponents define those terms for them.

“The permanent campaign demands that while a political team must seek to reach out beyond its base, it cannot afford to lose the base since the base will work hardest for the political victories of one particular side.”

Hard at work

“You’ve got to give the Democratic National Committee credit: It’s not about to be caught flat-footed in 2008 if a Republican dark horse emerges in the coming presidential race,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Nearly three years before Election Day, the DNC opposition-research department has begun digging up dirt on potential Republican candidates. It’s a pretty straight-up approach: File Freedom of Information Act requests with several offices of agencies related to the potential candidate and see what comes back in the mail,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Take Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as an example. He’s one of the dozen or so DNC targets. One FOIA landed at the Arkansas Tobacco Control Board and is typical of those received at other state agencies, seeking a wealth of info on him — specifically, any paperwork between the departments and Huckabee from 1993, when he was lieutenant governor, to today. What’s more, the DNC wants copies of other FOIAs filed for Huckabee papers.

“One unusual fact: The DNC isn’t identified as the group asking for the information. But DNC officials said that the letter writer was a deputy in the party’s research department. A party spokeswoman said, ‘This is standard. We’re just doing what we need to do to prepare for 2008.’ The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, wouldn’t talk about its opposition research efforts, but a party adviser said that much of the information about potential candidates was collected during the past two elections.”

Photo-ops

Aides to President Bush are trying to identify all the photos that may exist of the president and lobbyist Jack Abramoff together, Time reports.

Bracing for the worst, administration officials obtained from the Secret Service a list of all the times Mr. Abramoff entered the White House complex, and they scrambled to determine the reason for each visit, the magazine said.

Mr. Abramoff attended Hanukkah and other holiday events at the White House, according to an aide who has seen the list.

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

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