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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Getting it wrong

The Washington Post, in its two news stories yesterday on President Bush's commuting the 30-month prison sentence of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., referred to a "Democratic outcry" and "an avalanche of criticism."

However, the seven staffers listed in the Home Edition as having worked on the articles apparently were unable to find anything to back this up. The only Democrats quoted — besides former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Valerie Plame — were presidential candidate and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

Not only that, the newspaper said that "all but a few Republicans were conspicuously silent" and that "congressional Republicans seemed muted in their defense of the president." Once again, the newspaper seemed to make an assertion without any evidence.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri was the only Republican official quoted, but the newspaper failed to mention that Congress is out of town for the July Fourth holiday and that the White House made its announcement late in the day. That probably explains why The Post reporters could find neither "an avalanche of criticism" nor, apparently, more than one Republican congressman to comment. (Former Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, former Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, all Republicans, were quoted and none of them sound "muted.")

Finally, one of the articles said, "Prosecutors convinced the jury that Libby deliberately obscured his role in a White House campaign in 2003, shortly after the Iraq war began, to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV."

This assertion of "a White House campaign" against Mr. Wilson and his wife was nicely rebutted in one of this nation's most prestigious newspapers: "Mr. Libby's trial provided convincing evidence that the revelation of Ms. Plame's identity was not the result of a conspiracy to punish her husband, administration critic Joseph C. Wilson IV — the allegation that caused all the partisan furor surrounding the case and that led to [special prosecutor Patrick J.] Fitzgerald's appointment."

The source of that quote? Yesterday's Washington Post editorial criticizing Mr. Bush's action.

Olber-mania

Keith Olbermann's anti-Bush obsession erupted in full force Monday night, as the MSNBC "Countdown" host dubbed President Bush "Worst Person in the World" for his commutation of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr.'s 30-month prison sentence.

Mr. Olbermann opened his show thus: "A president who lied us into a war and, in so doing, needlessly killed 3,584 of our family and friends and neighbors; a president whose administration initially tried to destroy the first man to nail that lie; a president whose henchmen then ruined the career of the intelligence asset that was his wife when intelligence assets were never more essential to the viability of the republic; a president like that has tonight freed from the prospect of prison the only man ever to come to trial for one of the component felonies in what may be the greatest crime of this young century."

Mr. Olbermann said the president made the commutation "gutlessly by press release ... buried it on the Monday of the longest Fourth of July weekend possible, and ... in so doing, forfeited his claim to being president of anything larger than a small, privileged, elitist, undemocratic, anti-constitutional cabal."

Ear pollution

A second official has quit the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in a dispute with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the pace of implementing the state's landmark law to fight global warming by capping greenhouse-gas emissions.

Catherine Witherspoon, executive director of CARB, resigned on Monday, four days after its chairman, Robert Sawyer, was fired by Mr. Schwarzenegger.

The governor criticized the board for voting for a delay in enforcement of new air-quality standards in the San Joaquin Valley and was concerned that CARB was not pushing hard enough on air pollution, Reuters news agency reports.

Miss Witherspoon, however, said she quit because Mr. Schwarzenegger's staff was trying to slow implementing measures spelled out in AB 32, the global-warming law passed last year to reduce carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in California by 25 percent by 2020.

"Every signal the board got from the governor's office staff was, 'Slow down, don't hurt industry, don't get ahead of us on greenhouse gases,' " Miss Witherspoon told the San Francisco Chronicle.

A tough law

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano on Monday signed sweeping legislation against employers of undocumented workers, targeting the state's market for illegal labor with what she called "the most aggressive action in the country," the Arizona Republic reports.

The penalty for violators: the suspension of a business license on the first violation and permanent revocation on a second, amounting to a financial death sentence for repeat offenders.

"It's monumental. It's a change from anything we've done in the past," House Speaker Jim Weiers said. "It's time for the states to start stepping up and stop waiting for Congress."

The law takes effect Jan. 1, significantly raising the stakes for more than a quarter-million undocumented workers thought to reside in Arizona and the businesses that employ them.

Pollster vs. pollster

Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief strategist is being accused of illegal eavesdropping in a civil lawsuit that says he and his polling firm monitored the personal e-mails of a former associate who started a rival company.

Mitchell E. Markel, a former vice president at polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, says in the lawsuit that the firm began monitoring all messages sent from his personal BlackBerry device nearly a month after he had resigned and become president of his new business. The lawsuit says the founder of the firm, Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton's strategist and pollster, knew about and approved of the monitoring, which the lawsuit says violates federal wiretapping laws.

Penn, Schoen & Berland, a firm that has helped elect clients such as former President Bill Clinton andNew York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is accused of hacking into Mr. Markel's BlackBerry and rigging his e-mail accounts to send blind carbon copies of his e-mails to another account that it had set up, the Associated Press reports. The lawsuit says the BlackBerry that Mr. Markel used was always his own, never the property of his former employer.

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