- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

LOS ANGELES, California The White House yesterday denounced a "left-wing fringe group" of protesters who assaulted members of a homosexual softball league, hurled a rock at President Bush's motorcade and insulted his daughters during a three-day presidential visit to the West Coast.
"People who say they're for peace and engage in violence are hard to understand," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told The Washington Times. "They represent a real fringe group in this case, a left-wing fringe group."
Mr. Fleischer was among several senior Bush aides in a car in the presidential motorcade that was struck by a rock while passing protesters outside Mr. Bush's hotel in Portland on Thursday. The protesters did not injure anyone in the president's entourage, but they lashed out at members of a homosexual softball league who were staying in the same hotel.
Although Mr. Fleischer strongly defended the right of Americans to protest peacefully, he criticized the Portland protesters for "throwing rocks, attacking people who have nothing to do with politics, but who are guests of the hotel as a softball team."
Protesters continued to follow the president as he made his way down the West Coast into California over the weekend. Yesterday, he passed a demonstrator here who brandished a placard urging him to "Send the twins to Iraq." It was a reference to his 20-year-old daughters, Jenna and Barbara.
Another sign simply said "BUSH," with the "S" in the shape of a swastika.
"Some of the fringe groups engage in extremist language," Mr. Fleischer said. "It's their right. It doesn't make it tasteful, but it's their right."
He added: "I want to underscore protesters in America are welcome. It is their right, It is a time-honored, peaceful tradition. Presidents of all parties are subject to protests and it's part of a healthy democracy." But violence was not part of that right, he said.
Outside the president's fund-raiser for California Republican gubernatorial candidate William Simon, a demonstrator held a sign that said: "Bush and Simon, Corporate Crooks." Inside, Mr. Simon disputed press reports that the president has been keeping him at arm's length, even as he raises millions for the candidate.
"If keeping me at arm's length really means flying several thousand miles out here to campaign with us for two days, and now you've done five events with us, could you please keep me at arm's length for the balance of the campaign?" Mr. Simon jokingly asked the president.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush continued to single out Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for relaxing logging regulations in South Dakota and said the same policy should apply to other states, despite the Democratic leader's opposition.
"Some members of Congress have already gotten important forest reform passed for their states because they know it is the fastest and most effective way to get forests thinned," the president said in his weekly radio address. "We should pass this important reform to help protect all of America's forests."
The president last week called for the nationwide thinning of forests as a way to prevent fires, which have raged across the nation all summer.
The move followed a report in The Washington Times last month that Mr. Daschle exempted a timber sale in his home state from all environmental regulations and court appeals. The exemption had been quietly slipped into a supplemental budget bill that Mr. Bush signed.
Mr. Daschle's maneuver provided political cover for the president to call for a nationwide thinning program.
Yesterday was the third day in a row the Bush administration has brought up the Daschle exemption, which applies to the Black Hills National Forest.
"My attitude is: If it's good enough for that part of South Dakota, it's good enough for Oregon," Mr. Bush said after touring a charred forest in Oregon on Thursday.
The next day, Bush aide Karl Rove told reporters aboard Air Force One that the Black Hills exemption helps Rep. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, in his bid to unseat Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat.
"The issue is not just the Black Hills and the recent amendment to the supplemental [bill]," Mr. Rove said in response to questions from The Times. "It's a broader issue, which is one of how do you approach our natural resources, like the national forests."
"On the one hand, you have John Thune, who for a long time has been an advocate for sensible forest policies that thin the forests, that allow some economic utility of the forests as a dividend, as a result of a policy aimed at healthy forests," he added. "So, in this particular instance, I think this is a validation of what John Thune has been talking about."

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