- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

Romney's challenge
Republican Mitt Romney, the former Olympics chief and millionaire venture capitalist, launched his governorship of Massachusetts yesterday by warning that "immediate, hard action" will be needed to address the state's escalating financial crisis.
"We've used up virtually all our cash, borrowed all the banks will lend us, and we are still spending more than we're earning," Mr. Romney said. "We are facing a financial emergency."
Confronted with a budget deficit that could soon expand to $3 billion, Mr. Romney told lawmakers to be prepared for stark measures.
"Many nonessential programs, even some that we like very much, will have to be downsized or even eliminated," said Mr. Romney, who recently announced that he and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey would not accept salaries. "I didn't run for governor to do that, but I will do my job."
Credited with reviving the Salt Lake City Olympic games and countless corporations, the political newcomer will now be charged with leading the state through its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Associated Press reports.
Mr. Romney, 55, and his lieutenant governor took the oath of office in the House of Representatives. Before the ceremonies, Mr. Romney received the traditional symbols of power a pewter key and a Bible from acting Gov. Jane Swift, who then made what is known as "the long walk" out of the Statehouse, where she presided for 20 months, and into private life.
Mr. Romney reiterated his vow to overcome the gaping deficit without resorting to new taxes.
"Continuing to raise taxes to feed the bureaucratic beast can only result in devouring the means and motivation of our people," he said.

A new excuse
"Last year, politicians opposing an attack on Saddam claimed it would somehow interfere with our global war on al Qaeda," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.
"This year, a new excuse for delay is being advanced: The nuclear threat from North Korean Stalinists is more immediate and therefore we should seek an accommodation with them before taking on Saddam.
"In sum, the doves' rationale for inaction everywhere is that our plate is too full: The international arena has become a three-ring circus," Mr. Safire said.
"This push toward paralysis is a result of the long 'phony war' against Iraq. What seemed like such a winner to Colin Powell and his Senate acolytes last summer to delay allied action until the U.N. Security Council reluctantly gave us its blessing to stop Saddam's secret buildup now seems not such a great idea.
"The unequivocal blessing for united action is unlikely to come any time soon. As a result, the nuclear blackmailers in North Korea have taken advantage of this extended period of phony war to recycle their own nuclear challenge.
"If the war to disarm Iraq were already over, with the point driven home that rogue-state nuclear threats trigger dire consequences, North Korea would not have seized this moment to renew its blackmail. We find ourselves in this three-ring circus today because we have been slow-walking needed action in the Persian Gulf."

No use ducking
"The University of Michigan went to the Outback Bowl New Year's Day. Deep into the outback is where the White House apparently wishes a pair of University of Michigan affirmative action cases would disappear as fast as possible," the Wall Street Journal says.
"Yet like it or not, the two Michigan cases are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear oral argument in March. The immediate question is what the Department of Justice will say in a friend-of-the-court brief due by midmonth. It would be virtually unprecedented for an administration to keep silent on such an important case, and yet that's precisely what prominent White House officials would like to do," the newspaper said in an editorial.
"We're told that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales is afraid that if the administration comes down against racial quotas, he won't get the smooth Senate passage he wants if he is nominated to the Supreme Court to fill any opening later this year. We also hear that Colin Powell, moonlighting as attorney general, has weighed in with his well-known views in favor of racial preferences. And in the wake of the Trent Lott firestorm, the last thing some White House politicos want is a public fight over another racially charged issue.
"Sorry, but there is this nettlesome principle of equal opportunity under the law at stake here."
The newspaper added: "As for Mr. Gonzales, this is precisely a test of whether he is worthy of the high court. If Mr. Gonzales can't resist this liberal pressure on such a core issue as racial quotas, what will happen if he gets to the Supreme Court?"

Dunn's future
"Rep. Jennifer Dunn, Washington Republican, is shortly to announce her resignation from Congress in order to take a high-powered, high-profile position with a K Street trade association," United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.
"The Seattle-area congresswoman is set to become the head of the Air Transport Association, which represents the nation's airlines, sometime early in 2003. A former head of the Washington state Republican Party, Dunn has been a member of Congress since 1992. She made an unsuccessful bid for House majority leader after the 1998 elections and was on the short list for several important posts in the Bush administration.
"Her district eastern King County and much of rural Pierce County is heavily Republican, meaning the winner of the party's primary will likely be the new congressman," the wire service said.

Armey's alumni
"There's a new vice president at Fannie Mae who looks awfully familiar to many of us," Paul Bedard writes at the Web version of his Washington Whispers column in U.S. News & World Report (www.usnews.com).
"She's Michele Davis, the former Treasury spokeswoman, and she's now the boss of regulatory policy. She'll also help form public policy for the mortgage giant. The elevation of the silver-tongued Davis, a former spokeswoman for ex-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is just the latest example of what many in Washington call the 'Armey Gold Standard.' Essentially: Virtually every former top Armey aide has gone big time, either in the Bush administration or in private enterprise," Mr. Bedard said.
"Getting back to Davis, she didn't skip out because she knew Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was going to be canned. Just the opposite: Friends say she held Fannie Mae off while she helped O'Neill with his heavy lifting. But once he got the ax, she figured the new team might want its own mouthpiece, so she moved on.
"Her hiring is a smart move for Fannie Mae: A Republican with strong ties to the administration, Davis might help the organization's effort to shake off demands from some fiscal conservatives to privatize."

Free ballots
Elections officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., are giving away 140,000 unused ballots complete with attached chads.
The ballots were intended for punch-card machines that are no longer in use after the 2000 election brouhaha, says Pam Iorio, the county's elections supervisor.
Anyone wanting some free ballots could pick them up during business hours yesterday or today in Miss Iorio's office in downtown Tampa or at the Elections Service Center in suburban Brandon, the Associated Press reports.
All Florida counties that used punch cards in 2000 have since shifted to modern voting machines, such as touch-screen systems.
Ballots that were used in the presidential election and its disputed recounts are sitting in warehouses around the state, while officials decide whether they should be saved for posterity.

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