- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

Little enthusiasm

Some Senate Republicans favor giving taxpayers $100 rebate checks as some relief from high gasoline prices, butSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist says the idea is not generating much enthusiasm among the public.

“The issue … doesn’t seem to have the support that had been anticipated,” the Tennessee Republican said in an interview yesterday with Scripps Howard News Service.

Mr. Frist said he likes the idea because “a lot of people” could use help paying for gasoline. The $100 figure was chosen, he said, because that is what the average driver pays in federal gasoline taxes over nine months.

The Senate’s top Republican also blamed former President Bill Clinton in part for high gasoline prices, saying Mr. Clinton 10 years ago vetoed legislation to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. That extra supply of oil would have resulted in lower gasoline prices today, Mr. Frist said.

Back to old tricks

“The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote [this] morning on President Bush’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit. The eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote en bloc against Kavanaugh’s nomination. With the support of all 10 Republicans on the committee, Kavanaugh should be favorably reported to the Senate floor by a 10 to 8 party-line vote,” Edward Whelan writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Democrats will then try to translate their own unprincipled and partisan opposition to Kavanaugh into the charge that Kavanaugh himself is somehow too partisan. But they have no evidence to support this charge — and a long tradition to defy. Unhinged by their own frenzied hostility to President Bush and former independent counsel Ken Starr, the Democrats, supposed champions of public service, will really be punishing Kavanaugh for his highly commendable record of public service,” said Mr. Whelan, who is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

“Nominated to the D.C. Circuit nearly three years ago, Kavanaugh, now 41, has a remarkable breadth of experience that few judicial nominees could match. Among other things, he has been a Supreme Court clerk [to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy], has devoted more than 10 years to federal government service, has served in a senior position in the executive branch, has been a partner in a major national law firm, and has argued cases in the Supreme Court and court of appeals.

“In his various jobs, he has earned the admiration of people across the political spectrum who have worked with him … That’s part of the reason that all 42 members of three different incarnations of the American Bar Association Committee on the Federal Judiciary have rated him ‘well qualified’ or ‘qualified’ for the D.C. Circuit seat.”

Mr. Whelan added: “Senate Democrats are demonstrating by their conduct that they are too partisan even to treat nominees like Kavanaugh with basic decency and fairness. If they filibuster Kavanaugh’s nomination, the duty of Senate Republicans to reform the Senate’s cloture rules to prevent irresponsible filibusters of judicial nominees will be clear.”

Romney’s plan

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, often questioned about how his Mormon religion would affect a potential run for the Republican presidential nomination, said yesterday he envisions mimicking John F. Kennedy and explaining his religion to the public.

The Massachusetts governor said he imagines a speech evolving out of inevitable curiosity about his religion and its potential effect on presidential decision-making. He has already said that while his beliefs are integral to his life, they do not unduly influence his political judgments, the Associated Press reports.

“I think if I decided to go national, that there will probably be a time when people will ask questions, and it will be about my faith, and I’ll have the opportunity to talk about the role of religion in our society and in the leadership of our nation,” Mr. Romney said.

Mr. Kennedy, then a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, took the same approach in September 1960 when he was attempting to become the first Catholic president. He told the Houston Ministerial Association, “I do not speak for my church on public matters, and my church does not speak for me.”

Mr. Romney, who is not seeking re-election as Massachusetts governor this fall, has said he will likely announce whether he is running for president sometime next year.

Chaplain’s plight

Navy Chaplain Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, known for his 18-day hunger strike in front of the White House in December for the right to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, faces a court-martial by the U.S. Navy.

He was given a choice between a trial by court-martial and an official reprimand for appearing in front of the White House along with former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore on March 30. A reprimand could have meant eventual dismissal; a court-martial is similar to a jury trial, open to the public.

The lieutenant had been forbidden by his commanding officer, Capt. Lloyd E. Pyle, from making any media appearances while in uniform without first getting official permission. The one exception is if the chaplain is offering a prayer. Lt. Klingenschmitt says the only words he uttered, while standing next to Mr. Moore, was a prayer for the armed forces from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

The date of the trial has yet to be set, but the lieutenant is already fighting back with letters to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat; Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican; Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican; and Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican. Late last year, Mr. Jones got several dozen members of Congress to sign a letter to President Bush asking for an executive order allowing military chaplains to express their faith more freely.

“It now appears that [Navy Secretary Donald C.] Winter fully intends to kick me out of the Navy over a minor uniform discrepancy, simply to avoid ruling on my original complaint,” the lieutenant said in his letter. “This is Navy justice?”

Laura’s stance

First lady Laura Bush says any change to U.S. immigration laws should be “humane and sensitive.”

“We need to have a humane and sensitive immigration policy, and we need to work on that to make sure people don’t die in the desert as they cross Texas or Arizona because they are coming in illegally,” Mrs. Bush told Fox News yesterday.

“We need to figure out a way to have legal immigration, including a guest-worker program like the president has suggested, that will give people a legal way to be in the United States so they can go back home to Mexico and they can come back in for jobs without worry of having to sneak in across the desert,” she said.

However, the first lady also advocated a “legal and orderly” immigration and citizenship procedure to ensure that “people who have stood in line to become legal citizens … not be pre-empted by other people.”

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

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