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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

Novak's musings

Veteran journalist Bob Novak yesterday said President Bush is one of the worst presidents he's seen in his lifetime, but surmised that when he dies people will go out of their way to find some way to praise him.

"I couldn't believe the reviews Ford got; he was a terrible president, and he dies and people are saying he saved the country," Mr. Novak said at a breakfast meeting with reporters.

"Truman was a horrible man, he drank, and until his dying day he denied that Alger Hiss was a spy; he screwed up the [Korean] War and refused to understand the communist threat. So I assume that what they've done for these others they will do with Bush and tell a lot of lies about him."

At 76, Mr. Novak has taken some time to think about his life, a life he says he is "lucky" to still be living and put down on paper in his new book, "The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington."

He expressed disappointment in colleagues who beat up on him and called him a liar throughout the Valerie Plame case, none of whom he said has called to apologize.

And on Congress he said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has surpassed his predecessor Sen. Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, as "at least the most incompetent majority leader I've ever seen."

Cunningham's lies

Disgraced former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham lied to fellow lawmakers on a House ethics panel to disguise kickbacks from a defense contractor, according to a summary of an interview between the congressman and federal investigators.

Cunningham said he asked the House ethics committee in 2001 to review a sale of his yacht "Kelly C" to the defense contractor to avoid arousing suspicions when, in fact, there was no sale.

He fabricated the transaction and lied to lawmakers about it to "cover his bases" and make $100,000 in kickbacks appear legitimate.

Cunningham, a Republican, has not spoken publicly since going to prison in March 2006. He pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractor Brent Wilkes and others in exchange for millions of dollars in government contracts. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Mr. Wilkes has pleaded not guilty to bribery, fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

Cunningham detailed the arrangement in two interviews with prosecutors and government agents at his Tucson, Ariz., prison in February, a week before Mr. Wilkes was indicted, the Associated Press reports.

Liberty's limits

"Is Ron Paul the savior of libertarians? That's what many are claiming about the Texas Republican who ran on the Libertarian ticket for president in 1988," James Kirchick writes at the America's Future Foundation's "Brainwash" Web site (www.affbrainwash.com).

"Andrew Sullivan, who styles himself a classical liberal, has been trumpeting Paul ever since the GOP primary debate in South Carolina last month in which Paul went toe-to-toe with Rudy Giuliani over the cause of 9/11. 'Ron Paul, for all his faults, is fresh air. We need more of it,' Sullivan wrote last month. ... Paul seems to be the libertarian dream candidate," Mr. Kirchick said.

"Paul markets himself as an ideologically pure libertarian — a capital 'L' libertarian of the sort that people who refuse to carry driver's licenses or pay federal income taxes can admire. So committed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, he's something of a caricature in a Congress full of big-spenders, earning the title 'Dr. No' for voting against each and every federal spending bill.

"He supports unfettered free trade and a non-interventionist foreign policy. He supports the abolition of a variety of Cabinet-level federal agencies. But, in actuality, Paul is a selective libertarian. On the issue of gay rights — a cause that intellectually consistent libertarians ought to support — Paul is no better than his socially conservative primary opponents like [Kansas Sen.] Sam Brownback or [Colorado Rep.] Tom Tancredo."

Pollsters settle

A lawsuit accusing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief strategist of illegally intercepting e-mails has been withdrawn and the legal battle between him and former associates has been resolved, the parties said Wednesday.

Penn, Schoen & Berland said former vice president Mitchell E. Markel dropped his suit against the firm and its founder, Mark Penn, who is strategist and pollster to the Democratic presidential candidate. A separate suit that the firm had filed a week earlier against Mr. Markel and Michael J. Berland, another associate who once polled for New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, was also dismissed and a settlement was reached, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Markel had claimed in his e-mail wiretapping suit that the firm was illegally monitoring messages sent from his personal BlackBerry after he left and started a rival company. Penn, Schoen & Berland did not dispute that e-mails were intercepted but said it owned the e-mails because they were routed through the company's account.

In dropping the suit, Mr. Markel agreed that Penn, Schoen & Berland had a right to read the e-mails and withdrew his claim that the firm acted improperly, according to a statement attributed to all parties that came from firm spokesman Jason Schechter.

Usual suspects

"This week's release of a two-page summary of the National Intelligence Estimate is being greeted by the usual media suspects as evidence that the war on terror has been a squandered effort," the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

"We read it as a stark reminder that al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups continue to pose an urgent threat to our security, and that 9/11 was not the terrorist one-off that some liberals wish it were so they can switch the subject to global warming and after-school programs," the newspaper said.

"In its 'key judgments,' the NIE observes that 'greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al Qaeda to attack the U.S. Homeland.' It notes that the measures put into place since September 11, 2001, have 'helped disrupt known plots' — last year's foiled attempt to blow up airliners over the North Atlantic being just one of them. And it observes that terrorist groups 'perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11.' If this is evidence of the administration's alleged failures, we need more of them."

Mangled quote

In Tuesday's paper, this column slightly mangled a quote from Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker. Mr. Gingrich actually said, "In a world that fails, the federal government cannot find somewhere between 10 million and 20 million illegal immigrants, even if they are sitting."

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