- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

Courting the judges

Top California Democrats yesterday backed a plan to ask the courts to break a legislative logjam that has left the nation’s most populous state without a budget weeks into the new fiscal year.

The officials plan to ask the state’s Supreme Court to suspend the requirement that two-thirds of legislators must approve the budget, the Associated Press reports.

Such a move would allow Democrats, who dominate the California Legislature, to pass a budget without winning over votes from state Republicans, who have refused to back tax increases.

California’s planned lawsuit follows a similar move by neighboring Nevada, where the state Supreme Court last week ordered the Legislature to approve a budget with less than the two-thirds vote required by the state constitution.

Following Republican complaints, a federal court on Monday blocked further action on a record tax-increase measure in Nevada by issuing a temporary restraining order as the legal battle in that state continues.

An aide to California’s Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell said he would file a legal appeal to the state Supreme Court next week.

In a prepared statement, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis said he felt he had made “real progress” in talks with top legislators from both parties on Wednesday, but he still backed Mr. O’Connell’s lawsuit.

“I think it is perfectly appropriate for you as superintendent of public instruction to seek a Supreme Court order to protect our schoolchildren,” he said. “Let me be clear: If a responsible budget is not on my desk in the near future, I will join you in that lawsuit.”

Durbin’s charge

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, went on the attack yesterday against an unnamed White House official, saying that CIA Director George Tenet had blamed the presidential aide for a now-controversial statement that appeared in President Bush’s State of the Union address.

The White House dismissed Mr. Durbin’s charge as “nonsense,” Agence France-Presse reports.

Mr. Tenet told lawmakers in a closed-door session that a White House aide was “hell-bent” on using an accusation about Iraq’s nuclear program, Mr. Durbin told ABC News.

The senator, a member of the Intelligence Committee who opposed the war against Iraq, said that during a five-hour grilling on Wednesday, Mr. Tenet told the panel that a top Bush aide essentially forced his hand.

“We’ve been asking the wrong question. We’ve been asking why did George Tenet not stop the White House from misleading the American people. The more important question is, who is it in the White House who was … bent on misleading the American people and why are they still there?” Mr. Durbin said.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan reiterated that the charge should not have appeared in the speech, but quickly dismissed Mr. Durbin’s account, saying: “It’s nonsense. It’s ridiculous.

“It’s not surprising, coming from someone who was in a rather small minority in Congress that did not support the action that we took,” he said, a reference to Mr. Durbin’s opposition to a resolution last year authorizing the war.

Mr. Durbin said Mr. Tenet had identified the official by name, but the lawmaker refused to make that information public, citing the classified nature of the briefing and adding, “It should come out from the president.”

Just like Dean

“The best proof of how Howard Dean has spooked the other 2004 Democratic presidential candidates could be found [Wednesday] in the shrill tone of Sen. John Kerry’s slashing attack on President Bush, all but painting him as liar-in-chief,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“… Speaking in the Bronx, Kerry sounded as if he was trying to sound just like Dean. In fact, it sounded as if Kerry was kicking himself — hard — for having ever voted for the Iraq war last fall and wishing he’d been a naysayer from the start, like Dean,” Miss Orin said.

The Dean campaign agrees with that assessment.

“You get the feeling they’re hiring Jayson Blair to write their speeches,” Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi said, referring to the New York Times reporter who had to quit in part because of plagiarism.

Falling numbers

California’s economic problems, combined with growing partisan grumbling, have dropped President Bush’s popularity in the state to its lowest mark since the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to a Field Poll released yesterday.

Forty-nine percent of those polled approve of Mr. Bush’s job performance, down from 61 percent in April and 74 percent in the days following the al Qaeda attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

However, the poll did include some good news for Mr. Bush and the Republicans: The president continues to receive strong support from California’s fast-growing Hispanic population.

Forty-seven percent of the state’s Hispanics believe Mr. Bush is doing a good job, compared with 35 percent who disagree. That backing for Mr. Bush could help pry Hispanic voters from their traditional support for Democrats in future elections, the Chronicle said.

Metzenbaum backs Dean

Former Democratic Sen. Howard Metzenbaum endorsed presidential candidate Howard Dean yesterday despite the candidacy of a fellow Ohioan, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, the Associated Press reports.

“I like Dennis Kucinich. I find no fault with him,” Mr. Metzenbaum said during a joint appearance with Mr. Dean in Cincinnati. “But Howard Dean provides all the qualifications … we need in a president, and that’s not to denigrate Dennis Kucinich. In any horse race, you have to pick one horse, and I picked Howard Dean.”

Mr. Metzenbaum represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate for three terms before retiring in 1995.

Asked if he thinks Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor, can beat President Bush, Mr. Metzenbaum replied: “I don’t think I’d be here if he was a loser.”

Clinton cookbook

Former President Bill Clinton has called on his celebrity friends to share recipes compiled in a cookbook to raise funds for his library foundation.

The Clinton Presidential Foundation said it will publish the $35 cookbook next month, the Associated Press reports. “The Clinton Presidential Center Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes for Family and Friends” contains 250 recipes from celebrities, including Muhammad Ali, Bono, Christie Brinkley, Chevy Chase, Whoopi Goldberg, Don Henley, Quincy Jones, Bruce Lee, Sophia Loren, Mary Steenburgen, Barbra Streisand and Elizabeth Taylor.

The cookbook will be available by mail order and through the foundation’s Web site, foundation President Skip Rutherford said Wednesday.

“The recipes are good, but the stories are also good,” Mr. Rutherford said. “It includes all ranges of Clinton’s life.”

The cookbook also includes Mr. Clinton’s recipe for chicken enchiladas; Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recipe for chocolate-chip cookies; and barbecue recipes from McClard’s in Hot Springs, Ark., where Mr. Clinton grew up.

NEA boost

A group called the Association of Performing Arts Presenters says it is “thrilled” with the 225-200 passage of a House amendment to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The amendment was sponsored by Reps. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat; Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat; Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican; and Jim Leach, Iowa Republican.

“While we await passage of the final bill, this amendment demonstrates Congress’ firm commitment and understanding of the importance of the arts and the work of the NEA,” Sandra Gibson, president and chief executive of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, said in a prepared statement.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected].

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