- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

‘The silliest grin’

“Wow, what a day,” writes Tammy Bruce, author of “The Death of Right and Wrong,” in an e-mail message. “Jessica Lynch comes home, we nail [Saddam Husseins] two sadistic mutts, and the Eiffel Tower catches fire.

“I’ve been walking around with the silliest grin on my face all day long.”

Cartoon police

Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized the Secret Service yesterday for interrogating Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez.

Mr. Ramirez got into hot water with the feds for a recent cartoon, based on a famous photograph from the Vietnam War, which depicted President Bush with his hands bound while a man labeled “Politics” prepares to shoot him in the head. The background of the drawing is a cityscape labeled “Iraq.”

“Those of us in Southern California are used to seeing Michael Ramirez’s political cartoons in the Los Angeles Times,” Mr. Cox said yesterday in a prepared statement. “They are amusing, insightful, sometimes historical, sometimes biting — but never illegal. I was disappointed to read that the U.S. Secret Service, according to an agency spokesman, was considering ‘what action, if any, could be taken’ against Mr. Ramirez for his recent cartoon depicting political attacks on President Bush.”

Mr. Cox, in a letter to Ralph Basham, director of the Secret Service, said: “The use of federal power to attempt to influence the work of an editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times reflects profoundly bad judgment.”

Lack of clout?

Joe Garcia, executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, lashed out at three Cuban-American members of Congress yesterday for lacking the clout to prevent the forced return of 15 Cubans to the communist island.

The Cubans, who were returned Monday, had fled the island to the United States on a stolen boat. They now face up to 10 years in a Cuban prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. Cuban dictator Fidel Castro promised they would not be charged with hijacking, which could bring the death penalty.

The foundation is usually seen as a strong ally of the Republican Party, but Mr. Garcia singled out three Republican members of Congress from South Florida — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart — for not having more influence with the White House.

“This is a betrayal by this administration,” Mr. Garcia said. “And what it demonstrates is the impotence of our Republican congressmen within this Republican administration. When you sell yourself cheap, you get treated cheaply.”

Nevada raises taxes

The Nevada state Legislature passed a record $836 million tax increase by two-thirds majorities in both houses, averting what one lawmaker called a potential constitutional crisis over a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

A deadlock that gripped the Legislature for months ended just before midnight Monday when both houses approved the plan that hits casinos, smokers and others to fund schools and state services.

Senators voted for it 17-2, and the Assembly gave final approval with a 28-14 vote — exactly a two-thirds majority — less than an hour later.

Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican and a strong backer of higher taxes, was expected to sign it into law yesterday, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Guinn had won a legal victory July 10 when the state Supreme Court nullified a part of Nevada’s Constitution that required two-thirds of both houses to approve any tax increase. The court ruled that the constitutional requirement to fund schools outweighed the voter-approved mandate making it harder to increase taxes.

So while lawmakers just needed a simple majority, not two-thirds, for Monday’s vote, they got two-thirds anyway. That reduces the urgency of any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the state justices’ decision.

A panel of federal judges had stayed the state Supreme Court decision, but then ruled last week that they had no jurisdiction and let it stand.

Top tier

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are bunched together in the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates in California, a new poll shows.

Mr. Dean was favored by 16 percent of those likely to vote in the state’s Democratic primary in March, said a poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Field Research Institute. He was followed closely by Mr. Kerry of Massachusetts at 15 percent and Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut at 14 percent, the Associated Press reports.

The poll, conducted between July 1 and July 13, surveyed 1,040 registered voters by telephone and had a margin of error of five percentage points.

It found that 33 percent of likely Democratic voters were undecided.

The poll reported that just 7 percent of likely Democratic voters favored Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri — compared with 12 percent in April. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who has shown prodigious fund-raising talent but has struggled to break out of the pack, was favored by just 4 percent of likely California voters.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and black activist Al Sharpton followed with 3 percent. Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois had 2 percent support.

That other library

Just a few blocks from the future site of Bill Clinton’s $160 million presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., a couple of Clinton foes hope to open a museum devoted to mocking his presidency.

“As long as he’s talking, we’ll have to be here trying to keep him somewhat honest and stop him from rewriting history,” says John LeBoutillier, a former Republican congressman from New York who rode Ronald Reagan’s coattails to victory in 1980.

Mr. LeBoutillier and his partner, Houston businessman Richard Erickson, plan to call it the Counter-Clinton Library. They say the museum here and one planned for Washington will look at such topics as Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, the last-minute pardons, even damaged White House furniture, the Associated Press reports.

“We already hear he’s going to bring a bunch of egghead economists to his library to say how great the economy was when he was president,” Mr. LeBoutillier says. “And we’ll find our own who can say it had nothing to do with him.”

The two partners hope to open their place the same day that Mr. Clinton’s opens in November 2004. They say they will need $5 million. Mr. LeBoutillier says thousands of donations have come in and the average one is $72, but he will not say exactly how much has been raised so far.

The ‘prophet’

Readers will note that The Washington Times on July 14 reported NAACP Chairman Julian Bond’s disparaging remarks about Republicans — something about the dark underside, as you may recall. But believe it or not, Mr. Bond did show some restraint.

In his prepared remarks, which were released to the press around 1 p.m. on July 13, the day of Mr. Bond’s inflammatory speech, the former Georgia lawmaker included a sentence that was later omitted: “In coded racial appeals, they embrace Confederate leaders as patriots and wallow in a victim mentality.”

Strong rhetoric, but the audience at the Miami Beach Convention Center was prepared for something almost otherworldly after Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze introduced Mr. Bond as being “preordained” and compared him to Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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