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Political Scene

- - Sunday, January 16, 2011

HOUSE

House panel wants Homeland documents

A House committee wants the Homeland Security Department to provide documents about a policy requiring political appointees to review many Freedom of Information Act requests before releasing them.

The request for e-mails and other documents is in a letter obtained Sunday by the Associated Press.

The request comes from the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican. It is one of the first such moves by House Republicans, who have vowed to launch numerous probes of President Obama's administration.

The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to ensure the quick public release of government documents without political consideration.

Oversight panel spokesman Frederick Hill says that documents the panel already has received seem inconsistent with comments by Homeland Security officials.

POLITICAL HISTORY

Sargent Shriver sent hospitalized in Maryland

A medical center spokeswoman says former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee R. Sargent Shriver has been hospitalized outside Washington.

Ronna Borenstein of Suburban Hospital in Bethesda said Sunday evening that she could not comment on the 95-year-old Mr. Shriver's condition or say when he was admitted.

Mr. Shriver announced in 2003 that he had Alzheimer's disease. He served as the first Peace Corps director in the administration of his brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy. He also was Democrat George McGovern's running mate in 1972.

Mr. Shriver's wife and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver died in 2009 at age 88. He is the father-in-law of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to former NBC reporter Maria Shriver.

STATE OF UNION

Coburn, Schumer to sit together for Obama address

Two senators from different parties say they'll skip tradition and sit together during President Obama's State of the Union address.

The decision by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York comes amid calls for greater civility in political discourse after the fatal shootings Jan. 8 at a political event in Tucson, Ariz.

Mr. Schumer says he and Mr. Coburn hope other lawmakers will follow their example and skip the partisan seating arrangements that usually come with joint sessions of Congress. Mr. Schumer says it's a symbolic move, but one he hopes will help set a more civil tone.

The State of the Union address is set for Jan. 25.

Mr. Coburn and Mr. Schumer spoke Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

CALIFORNIA

Rumsfeld unlikely to guest on TV drama

PASADENA | Producers of the CBS drama "The Good Wife" want former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to appear on a future episode. But Mr. Rumsfeld's office says it won't happen.

Robert King, who produces the show with his wife Michelle, said Friday he would like Mr. Rumsfeld to appear as himself, called as a witness in a lawsuit. The legal case is about what is considered torture or not, and Mr. King said he wants Mr. Rumsfeld to testify about why aggressive interrogation is sometimes needed in wartime.

But Keith Urbahn, who works for Mr. Rumsfeld, says the subject matter makes the idea a "non-starter."

Mr. King hadn't asked Mr. Rumsfeld yet. He's also writing the episode with a fictional character in case Mr. Rumsfeld won't do it.

"The Good Wife" has had occasional real-life cameos, including Vernon Jordan and Lou Dobbs.

CIA

Ex-agent enters not-guilty plea in leak

ALEXANDRIA, Va. | An ex-CIA agent pleaded not guilty Friday to illegally leaking classified documents about agency programs in Iran to a New York Times reporter.

Meanwhile, the attorney for former agent Jeffrey Sterling criticized the government for prosecuting his client while failing to go after the reporter and publisher who produced the book that purportedly disseminated the leaked secrets. Mr. Sterling had worked on the CIA's Iran Task Force.

"The government seems to find a way to indict the most minor players, while the publishers and media get off the hook. Sources beware," defense attorney Edward MacMahon said outside the courtroom after the hearing.

The law governing illegal disclosures of classified information makes it a crime not only for a government agent to leak documents, but also for a reporter or anyone else who receives the information to make it public. But the law is rarely used to prosecute non-government officials, and it has proven problematic for prosecutors in the past.

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas attend church services

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended Sunday services at an African Methodist Episcopal church near the White House.

Metropolitan AME bills itself as "the National Cathedral of African Methodism."

During morning prayers, the congregation was asked to remember the people of Tucson, Ariz., where a gunman went on a shooting spree last weekend that killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others, including a congresswoman.

The congregation also sang birthday wishes to the first lady, who turns 47 on Monday.

KANSAS

Dole again released from Walter Reed

TOPEKA, Kan. | Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole has been released from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for the second time in less than a week.

Mr. Dole said in a statement Thursday that he feels "a whole lot better" after being treated for a minor infection. He said he plans to return to work Friday.

The former U.S. senator first left the hospital Jan. 7, but returned that same night after a recurrence of a fever. The 87-year-old Mr. Dole spent 10 months at Walter Reed last year after suffering pneumonia following knee surgery. He left the facility in mid-November. Mr. Dole was elected to the U.S. House in 1960, and the Senate in 1968. He was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, but lost to President Clinton.