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Inside Politics

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Obama's boast

"At a closed-door, off-the-record meeting with media mavens and corporate titans at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan Tuesday evening, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the freshman senator who just three years ago was an Illinois state senator, said he had better judgment about foreign policy than any presidential candidate in either party," Jake Tapper of ABC News writes at abc.go.com.

" 'One thing I'm very confident about is my judgment in foreign policy is, I believe, better than any other candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat,' Obama said.

"Others in the race have spent decades in the foreign policy world, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who visited 82 countries as first lady, Vietnam veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and former Vietnam prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz," Mr. Tapper said.

"But Obama said, 'The notion that somehow from Washington you get this vast foreign policy experience is illusory.'

"The Clinton campaign begged off commenting, but campaigning in New Hampshire and told of Obama's remark, Sen. McCain offered a sarcastic reply.

" 'Well, I also think I'm the most qualified to run the decathlon because I watch sports on television all the time,' McCain said, according to the Associated Press."

Gonzales papers

Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the Associated Press reports.

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand in the March 10, 2004, meeting was not the warrantless terrorist surveillance program but an intelligence program that he would not describe. Mr. Gonzales testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform top lawmakers about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department dissent against renewing it.

"The dissent related to other intelligence activities," Mr. Gonzales testified Tuesday. "The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program."

"Not the TSP?" responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. "Come on. If you say it's about other, that implies not. Now say it or not."

"It was not," Mr. Gonzales answered. "It was about other intelligence activities."

A four-page memo from the national intelligence director's office says the White House briefing was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, details "the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program," wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.

"It seemed clear to just about everyone on the committee that the attorney general was deceiving us ... and this memo is even more evidence that helps confirm our suspicions," Mr. Schumer said.

A Gonzales spokesman maintained yesterday that his boss stands by his testimony.

Rebutting Gravel

Al From, chief executive officer of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), yesterday dismissed as "crazy" an accusation from White House hopeful Mike Gravel that his organization "sold out" the Democratic Party.

Mr. From, speaking about politics with reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, was asked about Mr. Gravel's comment during Monday's Democratic debate. The former senator from Alaska said: "The Democratic Party used to stand for the ordinary working man. But the Clintons and the DLC sold out the Democratic Party to Wall Street."

"It probably doesn't even need a response," Mr. From said, citing what he called the Clinton administration's achievements, including creating new jobs and reducing poverty and crime.

DLC President Bruce Reed predicted Democrats will do well in the 2008 elections and gain more congressional seats, brushing aside questions about low approval ratings for Capitol Hill Democrats. Voters understand President Bush sets the agenda and Congress "does its best" to "limit the damage," he said.

"George Bush is handing us our Hoover moment, but we'll only build a lasting majority if we put in place and carry out an agenda that works," Mr. Reed said.

Mr. From, who backed Bill Clinton for president in the 1992 Democratic race, had kind words for current Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as well, reports Christina Bellantoni of The Washington Times.

Without naming names, Mr. From said he's heard privately from Southern governors who believe the New York Democrat and former first lady would be the strongest candidate who could win a general election in Southern states.

Biden vs. 'baby'

In Monday's Democratic presidential debate, one of the questioners who submitted his video question via YouTube.com was Jered Townsend of Clio, Mich., who asked whether the candidates would protect his "baby" — a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

In response, Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. shook his head and said: "I'll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help. ... I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun."

"I just laughed when he said that," Mr. Townsend told David Weigel in an interview on Reason magazine's Web site (www.reason.com). Mr. Biden "made himself look stupid."

Mr. Biden "totally did not answer" the question about Second Amendment rights and the now-expired federal ban on certain semi-automatic weapons, Mr. Townsend said. "He took the fastest and easiest way to blow it off that he could find."

Asked why he referred to the rifle as his "baby," Mr. Townsend explained, "I wanted a bold statement and I wanted it to be effective — to stick in your mind and stay there."

CPB and NPR

Contrary to an item in this column Monday, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting "does not run" National Public Radio, a network executive writes to Inside Politics.

"The CPB allocates federal funding to public broadcasting; it does not run NPR, PBS or any public radio or TV station," said Andi Sporkin, NPR's vice president for communications. "The CPB has no influence in public broadcasting content — a subject that has been covered at length by The Washington Times. NPR is not 'federally subsidized.' The majority of the federal funding distributed by the CPB goes to the independent local TV and radio stations for their annual operating costs. NPR gets less than 1 percent of its annual budget from CPB funding and this is solely through competitive grants for programs. The remaining 99 percent of our budget comes from station fees, corporate underwriting, private and community foundations and individual donor support."

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

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