- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

Rumsfeld fights back

Anti-war protesters repeatedly interrupted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a speech in Atlanta yesterday and one man, a former CIA analyst, accused him in a question-and-answer session of lying about Iraq prewar intelligence.

“Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?” asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst.

“I did not lie,” shot back Mr. Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove Mr. McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies.

It is not unusual for top Bush administration officials to encounter protests and hostile questions, but the outbursts Mr. Rumsfeld confronted yesterday seemed beyond the usual, the Associated Press reports.

Three protesters were escorted away by security as each interrupted Mr. Rumsfeld’s speech by jumping up and shouting anti-war messages. A fourth protester stood up in the middle of the room with his back to Mr. Rumsfeld in silent protest throughout the speech.

Flag vote

A Senate panel yesterday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration, a measure with little chance of congressional passage but potential political impact in an election year, the Associated Press reports.

Approved 6-4 by a Judiciary Committee panel on the Constitution, the amendment reads: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” The House already has passed the amendment.

But the 17-word amendment faces high procedural and constitutional hurdles. The 58 Senate co-sponsors are nine short of the two-thirds majority required to send constitutional amendments to the states. The Supreme Court in 1989 issued the first of two 5-4 decisions declaring that flag desecration amounts to free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Trial continues

Lawyers for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman yesterday attempted to discredit a key witness in the Democrat’s federal corruption trial in Montgomery.

It was the second day of intense cross-examination for Nick Bailey, former director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Siegelman is on trial along with his former chief of staff Paul Hamrick, former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and Mack Roberts, who was Mr. Siegelman’s transportation director.

Mr. Bailey testified yesterday that it was he and not Mr. Siegelman who approved more than $400,000 in apparently bogus vouchers to a developer with a contract to build a state warehouse in Montgomery.

Mr. Bailey has testified that he, Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Hamrick had an “absolute agreement” to do favors for landfill director Lanny Young, whose GH Construction Co. received the contract to build the state warehouse for the Siegelman administration.

Mr. Bailey said Mr. Siegelman approved the overall project, but that it was Mr. Bailey who approved vouchers from Mr. Young for $330,000 and $81,000. Mr. Bailey said it was later determined that apparently no work was done for that money.

Mr. Bailey acknowledged that he often was in serious debt and took more than $200,000 in bribes from contractors and others while working for Mr. Siegelman.

Mr. Bailey has also testified that Mr. Siegelman agreed to appoint Mr. Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board in exchange for the health care executive’s arranging $500,000 in contributions to Mr. Siegelman’s campaign for a statewide lottery.

Drafting Hillary

A movement to draft Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for president aims to prove Democrats can win in Southern states, and that’s why they’re launching their national campaign in Nashville later this month, the Tennessean newspaper reports.

The group, called Hillarynow.com, thinks she can appeal to the country-music and NASCAR-loving crowd associated with Southern towns such as Nashville, said Bob Kunst, the Miami Beach, Fla.-based organizer.

“The whole point is to go where we’re not expected,” Mr. Kunst said.

The national kickoff will be a May 23 fundraiser for Hillarynow.com at a Germantown, Tenn., coffee shop, Enchanted Gingerbread. About 200 Tennesseans are expected to attend, Mr. Kunst told Tennessean reporter Bonna de la Cruz.

Hillarynow.com bills itself as the oldest and most active organization in support of her presidency. Another group, votehillary.org, is based in Chester, Va. Hillarynow.com has raised about $35,000 and has between 10,000 and 15,000 people who have signed up online to support Mrs. Clinton as the nation’s first female president, Mr. Kunst said.

The group ran four “Draft Hillary” television ads in the fall in New Hampshire, which has the first presidential primary, and in Kentucky in December when Mrs. Clinton spoke there, Mr. Kunst said.

Family affair

Two voting-age sons of a northern Ohio candidate didn’t go to the polls Tuesday, and their father’s race ended in a tie.

William Crawford, trying to retain his seat on the central committee of the Erie County Democratic Party, and challenger Jean Miller each received 43 votes in the primary balloting, the Associated Press reports.

Officials plan to conduct a recount, but the race may have to be settled by coin flip, said David Giese, the county’s Democratic Party chairman and an elections board member. Mr. Crawford was able to laugh about it Wednesday, but he said his sons are going to be getting an earful for skipping the election.

“Oh they will, let me tell you,” Mr. Crawford said.

Son Jim lives across the street from Mr. Crawford’s home in Castalia, about 45 miles southeast of Toledo, and son Andy is a college student who lives at home. Both are registered Democrats.

Liaison leaving

Pam Turner, the Homeland Security Department’s Capitol Hill liaison, announced her resignation yesterday, effective at the end of this month.

As assistant secretary for legislative affairs, she was the department’s “ambassador to the House and Senate since day one,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday in making the announcement.

“She has earned deep respect among congressional members and staff for her sharp intellect, tremendous professionalism and genuine candor,” Mr. Chertoff said. “I have relied heavily on Pam for trusted counsel on several of the top issues facing the department.”

Her priorities included the secure-border initiative and retooling the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Both the House and Senate have the embattled agency in their cross hairs for a complete overhaul. Some members, such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, want the agency stripped from the department.

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

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