- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Gingrich vs. State
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized the State Department with as much verve as he praised the Defense Department yesterday, during a panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Georgia Republican said the State Department has "a propensity for appeasing dictators and propping up corrupt regimes," but it's not Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's fault.
Mr. Gingrich insisted that it is possible to criticize institutions without getting into personalities, The Washington Times' Ralph Z. Hallow reports. In fact, Mr. Gingrich said he admires Mr. Powell and doesn't believe the retired general is trying to undermine President Bush's foreign-policy goals, even though, he said, factions in the State Department are doing just that.
"Powell is an extraordinary figure and … a very effective advocate, but I think he is currently presiding over an institution that's broken," Mr. Gingrich said.
He criticized the State Department for not persuading the United Nations and some of America's staunchest European allies of the merits of the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
He cited failures by State's communications department as the reason why South Korea's people regard the United States "as more dangerous than North Korea and [why] a vast majority of French and Germans citizens favored policies that opposed the United States."
By contrast, he said, the Defense Department "delivered diplomatically and … militarily in a stunning four-week campaign" in Iraq.
Mr. Gingrich did have one bone to pick with Mr. Powell: the secretary's intention to visit Syrian President Bashir Assad in Damascus.
"The concept of the American secretary of state going to Damascus to meet with a terrorist-supporting, secret-police-wielding dictator is ludicrous," Mr. Gingrich said. "This is a time for America to demand changes in Damascus before a visit is even considered. The visit should be a reward for public change, not an appeal to a weak, economically depressed dictatorship."
Santorum's statement
Sen. Rick Santorum denied yesterday that comments he made in a recent interview were meant to be anti-homosexual.
"I am a firm believer that all are equal under the Constitution. My comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles," the Pennsylvania Republican said in a prepared statement.
Mr. Santorum said his comments were meant to be restricted to a case currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Lawrence v. Texas, in which two homosexuals are challenging the constitutionality of the Texas sodomy law.
His comments were "about the Supreme Court privacy case, the constitutional right to privacy in general, and in context of the impact on the family," he said.
Mr. Santorum had told an interviewer: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family."
In an interview last night with Fox News, Mr. Santorum rejected calls from Democrats and pro-homosexual groups to repudiate his remarks.
"I do not need to give an apology based on what I said and what I'm saying now I think this is a legitimate public policy discussion. This is what the state of Texas argued in their brief," he said.
Defending Santorum
Conservative lobby groups and lawmakers came to Sen. Rick Santorum's defense yesterday, saying the Pennsylvania Republican was being unfairly attacked by homosexual groups over his remarks about a Supreme Court case concerning sodomy laws.
"The Human Rights Campaign's attack on Senator Santorum, a champion of the family, is intended to intimidate defenders of marriage and silence critics of the homosexual political agenda," said FRC President Ken Connor, referring to a homosexual-rights group.
Mr. Connor said Mr. Santorum's statements on Supreme Court privacy decisions are "hardly a novel point of view. Many legal scholars have made the same argument."
CWA President Sandy Rios condemned the Log Cabin Republicans and other homosexual groups for attacking Mr. Santorum.
"The Log Cabin Republicans have shown once again that they don't see any room in the 'big tent' for people who object to homosexual behavior on religious grounds," she said. "I would remind the Republican leadership that millions of voters who make up the GOP base agree with Santorum not the 'gay' thought police."
Mr. Santorum's Republican colleagues in the Senate also came to his defense, with Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee saying that "Rick is a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party and in the Senate, and to suggest otherwise is just politics."
In addition, Pennsylvania's other senator, Arlen Specter, said he accepted Mr. Santorum's statement that his words were not an attack on individual lifestyles.
"I have known Rick Santorum for the better part of two decades, and I can say with certainty he is not a bigot," said Mr. Specter, a liberal Republican who scored an 86 percent on the most-recent Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard on homosexual issues.
Backing away
The National Organization for Women is sidestepping the uproar ignited when its Morris County chapter president opposed a double-murder charge in the Laci Peterson case, the Morristown, N.J.-based Daily Record reported in yesterday's editions.
The Daily Record said that NOW officials declined to comment Monday on statements made over the weekend by Mavra Stark, "out of respect for [Petersons] family and what they're going through," spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer told the newspaper in a telephone interview.
Miss Farmer would not comment on whether NOW opposes fetal-homicide statutes that exist in at least 23 states, the Record said. The laws have been opposed by some pro-choice groups despite the fact that legal abortions are not subject to prosecution.
"Right now, the issue is connected to the case," she told the newspaper.
California's fetal-homicide statute is the basis for a second murder charge against Scott Peterson, 30, of Modesto. He is accused of murdering his wife, who was eight months pregnant with their child.
The Record said that Miss Stark, who heads the Morris County NOW chapter, spoke Monday with the national organization's vice president, Terry O'Neill. Following their conversation and after fielding a flood of critical phone calls and e-mails from across the nation, Miss Stark modified her earlier comments about the Peterson case, saying that the "viability of the Peterson fetus … makes a great deal of difference."
"I was thinking out loud," said Miss Stark, who on Saturday criticized the double-murder charge, saying it could aid pro-life groups.
"If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder," she said over the weekend.
Sharpton's turnabout
The Rev. Al Sharpton did an about-face yesterday, announcing that he has only now decided to become an official candidate for president and thus will file a fund-raising report with the Federal Election Commission.
Mr. Sharpton, unlike the other eight Democrats running for president, failed to file a quarterly financial statement with the FEC, saying he was not legally obligated to do so.
However, the Sharpton campaign issued the following statement yesterday: "The Reverend Al Sharpton has made the decision to seek the Democratic nomination for the office of president of the United States. As a result, a statement of candidacy and the supporting financial disclosure documents will be filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, April 28th, 2003."
The report was due on April 15.
Did public pressure or the complaint filed by the conservative National Legal and Policy Center play a role in yesterday's anti-climactic announcement?
"None whatsoever," campaign manager Frank Watkins said.

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