Continued from page 1

Lugar’s view

Political briefings given by Bush White House aides to high-ranking diplomats “were probably inappropriate,” the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday.

The comments by Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar were in contrast to White House assertions that the private briefings were not unusual or improper, the Associated Press reports.

Starting in 2001, White House political aides gave at least a half-dozen briefings to top diplomats about key congressional and gubernatorial races and Mr. Bush’s re-election goals, according to documents obtained by the Senate committee.

In a January 2007 session, senior Bush adviser Karl Rove briefed six ambassadors about Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008. Another political briefing occurred after the 2002 elections at the Peace Corps headquarters, the documents said.

The diplomats were Bush appointees, several of whom had contributed heavily to the campaigns of Mr. Bush and other Republicans. Administration officials said yesterday there was nothing surprising or inappropriate about the briefings.

“You’ve got political appointees getting political briefings,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said with sarcasm. “I’m shocked. Shocked.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the briefings did not violate the Hatch Act nor the department’s “very strict guidelines” that bar partisan political activity by diplomats.

Triggering liberals

A planned Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire aims to promote gun ownership in America by letting supporters fire powerful military-style weapons — from Uzi submachine guns to M-16 rifles.

The Manchester Republican Committee is inviting party members and their families to a “Machine Gun Shoot” where, for $25, supporters can spend a day trying out automatic weapons, said organizer Jerry Thibodeau.

“It’s a fun day. It’s a family day,” said Mr. Thibodeau of the Aug. 5 event. “It’s quite exciting.”

Local Democrats say the event is in poor taste in light of a spike in violent crime in Manchester and seeks to glorify the use of machine guns for political gain, Reuters news agency reports.

Obama’s ad

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obamais reaching out to fellow blacks in his first advertising effort in South Carolina, a 60-second spot scheduled to begin airing today on 36 radio stations with predominantly black listenership, the Associated Press reports.

Story Continues →