- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. — President Bush said yesterday the federal government should be allowed to construct electric-power lines if the private sector fails to provide sufficient electricity.

“We ought to authorize the federal government to step in as a last resort to put up new power lines where it best serves the national interest,” Mr. Bush said in a speech at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond.

The proposal was one of several the president pushed in the wake of last week’s massive electrical blackout in the Northeast, Midwest and Ontario. Mr. Bush also called for electricity suppliers to be subjected to mandatory reliability standards, as outlined in his comprehensive energy bill.

“For many years, the reliability of electricity in America depended on companies observing voluntary standards to prevent blackouts,” he said. “I don’t think those standards ought to be voluntary.

“I think they ought to be mandatory,” he added. “And if there’s not reliability backup for electricity, there ought to be a serious consequence for somebody who misuses the public trust. And Congress needs to have that in the law.”

Though the House and Senate have each passed versions of the energy bill the president proposed more than two years ago, they have failed to reconcile differences in the legislation.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush made clear he prefers the House version when it comes to expediting investment in electric-transmission facilities.

“We’ve got some old laws that were passed a long time ago that make it harder for people to invest in new electricity lines, new transmission lines,” he said. “That doesn’t make any sense.

“If we’ve got a problem, let’s deal with it,” he added. “The law that passed out of the House of Representatives deals with it.”

Earlier in the day Mr. Bush raised $1 million for his re-election campaign during a luncheon appearance at the University of Portland. The president’s motorcade passed thousands of anti-Bush demonstrators who gathered behind a barbed-wire fence just outside the fund-raiser.

The demonstrators extended their middle fingers at the president and held signs proclaiming, “We hate you.” Portland is known for its large and sometimes violent protest community, prompting Mr. Bush’s father to nickname the city “Little Beirut” when he was president.

During a visit to Portland exactly one year ago, the current president’s motorcade had to be rerouted after violent demonstrators massed outside a hotel where Mr. Bush was scheduled to raise money for Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican.

Even after the route was changed, protesters hurried to the new route and hurled rocks at the motorcade, bouncing one off the windshield of a car containing several senior Bush aides, including Ari Fleischer, who was then White House press secretary.

Mr. Fleischer later denounced the protesters for their violence against not only Republicans attending the fund-raiser, but participants in the Gay Softball World Series, who were also staying at the hotel. The homosexuals were roughed up by anti-Bush demonstrators as they returned from the day’s softball games and tried to enter the hotel.

Police preparing for this year’s visit by Mr. Bush were alarmed to learn the protesters’ avowed intention to again disrupt the motorcade. Consequently, the Secret Service brought the president in on a circuitous route from the airport without incident.

As an added precaution, Republican donors were bused in and out of yesterday’s fund-raiser. The beefed-up security appeared to succeed in protecting the donors from violence.

“I hope you had an easier time getting in here than last time,” Mr. Smith joked to about 500 donors while introducing the president.

Also yesterday, the president took a helicopter tour of two fires that began Tuesday in portions of Deschutes National Forest. The fires, which forced cancellation of a planned presidential visit to the forest, gave off acrid smoke that could be smelled in the aircraft.

Mr. Bush said the fires proved the need for legislation to allow thinning of the forests — a measure supported by the logging industry and opposed by environmentalists.

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