- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

Presidential testimony

The chairman of the federal commission investigating the September 11 attacks says he wants President Bush and former President Bill Clinton to meet with the panel and discuss what their administrations knew about terror network al Qaeda and what they did to combat it, Time magazine reports.

The remarks by John Lehman, who was Navy secretary under President Reagan and is one of five Republicans on the 10-member investigative panel, makes it all but certain that a majority will support a request to interview Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, the magazine said.

“I don’t think any commission should ever formally call a president to testify,” Mr. Lehman said, “but I think it is very much in the country’s interest — and in both President Clinton’s and President Bush’s interest — to meet directly with the commissioners.”

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, “The White House has been and will continue to cooperate with the commission.”

Short answers

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor yesterday brusquely denied a widely reported rumor concerning election night 2000.

Justice O’Connor, who appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with Justice Stephen G. Breyer, was first asked whether she planned to serve at least one more term on the court.

“Oh, I assume so,” Justice O’Connor said.

Host George Stephanopoulos then said: “The reason — and I know this is something that’s been swirling around for a long time — the reason there’s so much speculation goes back to election night 2000. And there were well-reported stories in both Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal which suggested that your husband had told people that you wanted to retire but wouldn’t if Vice President Gore won. Were those stories true?”

“No, sir,” Justice O’Connor replied.

Mr. Stephanopoulos said, “They were just wrong.”

“Yes,” Justice O’Connor said.

One happy family

Despite the 5-4 votes and blistering dissents, the Supreme Court is not fractured, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.”

“When you work in a small group of that size, you have to get along, and so you’re not going to let some harsh language, some dissenting opinion affect a personal relationship. You can’t do that,” Justice O’Connor said.

She said the high court, naturally, must deal with the toughest cases, “where you can make a good argument on either side.”

Justice Breyer said: “I have never heard one member of the court say something insulting about another, even, even as a kind of joke. It’s professional. We conduct our discussions in what I would call a very civilized way.”

Curbing the court

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, says he supports the idea of a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex “marriages.” In fact, Mr. Santorum said Congress has an “obligation to act before the [Supreme] Court takes away the public’s ability to act.”

Such an amendment, as touted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, “would be very acceptable to me,” Mr. Santorum said last week on Fox News Channel’s “After Hours with Cal Thomas.”

Mr. Santorum said the high court’s recent finding of a constitutional right to sodomy indicates “that the next step will be to legitimize same-sex marriages or maybe even multiple marriages, who knows, whatever.”

He added, “The point is, we have an obligation to act before the court takes away the public’s ability to act.”

Mr. Santorum was widely denounced for making that point about homosexuality in an April interview with the Associated Press on the then-pending Texas sodomy case.

A constitutional amendment is clearly needed, “with the decisions going to be coming out in the next few weeks in Massachusetts [and] probably one in New Jersey, which will create a constitutional right in those states for same-sex marriage,” which other states probably would be obligated to recognize under the full-faith-and-credit clause of the Constitution, he said.

In regard to the court’s ruling on sodomy, Mr. Santorum said, “I feel a sense of sadness that what I had anticipated actually came to reality, and I think that’s going to be a very unfortunate thing for our country because what’s happened is the court has further expanded this amorphous right to privacy that’s in the Constitution.”

Graham riding high

Florida Sen. Bob Graham’s presidential campaign has hit the NASCAR racing circuit in a big way.

No. 50, the candidate-sponsored Ford truck, won its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, a 250-miler in Kansas.

Mr. Graham’s campaign signed the deal to sponsor a racing team in a bid to reach rural voters who flock to auto races. He is the first presidential candidate to have his campaign logo emblazoned on a NASCAR vehicle.

The victory Saturday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., was the first NASCAR truck series win for 21-year-old driver Jon Wood.

Jack Roush, the team’s owner, acknowledged in a statement that No. 50’s sponsorship is unusual, “but when a distinguished United States senator calls with interest in our program, we’re glad to accept the support and participation in the democratic process in a unique way.”

The Graham campaign will pay Roush Racing for an undetermined number of races. Terms of the contract were not disclosed but will become public when the campaign files its finance reports later this year, the Associated Press reports.

Snob appeal

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry have an advantage over their rivals for the Democratic nomination, Michael Barone writes in U.S. News & World Report. Because the two men are snobs, they are more likely to appeal to the party’s liberal core, the columnist said.

“Democrats have an emotional investment in the idea that George W. Bush is an idiot; if conservatives believe they are conservative because they have more common sense than other people, liberals believe they are liberal because they are smarter than other people. At the heart of their hatred of Bush is snobbery,” Mr. Barone said.

Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards “don’t exude this snobbery,” he said.

“Dean and Kerry do. This could give whichever of them survives New Hampshire an edge with core Democrats. The Democrats’ problem is that at least 70 percent of voters do not share their contempt for Bush and find it off-putting. Outside a Bush fund-raiser last week one protester’s sign read, ‘France was right.’ That is not a winning slogan in an American election.”

Birthday boy

President Bush marked his 57th birthday yesterday with a visit to church, drawing birthday greetings along the way.

Mr. Bush attended services at St. John’s Church, across Lafayette Square from the White House, the Associated Press reports.

He seemed in good spirits, chuckling at jokes the Rev. Spencer M. Rice sprinkled into his sermon. A lay minister said a prayer for Mr. Bush and other government officials. But the president was not mentioned in the list of birthdays the congregation was celebrating.

As Mr. Bush left the church, reporters shouted “happy birthday” to him.

“Thank you,” Mr. Bush said, smiling. “I was hoping someone in the crowd would recognize it.”

The president leaves today for a five-day trip to Africa. On Friday, first lady Laura Bush threw a birthday party for the president.

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

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