- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday rebuked the 11 Democratic state lawmakers who sent President Bush a letter decrying the war in Iraq and criticizing the president's diplomacy.
"I find it unfortunate that these members not only question the president's motivations, but also suggested that the war is intended for anything other than the removal of one of the most ruthless and brutal dictators ever to rule," said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. "These 11 legislators do not represent the majority opinion in Maryland," he said.
The letter to the president called the war "wrong and ill-conceived" and accused the Bush administration of "going to war and imposing its hegemony."
"This war is morally and fiscally reckless to our own Maryland citizens," the letter said. "It will have devastating effects on the state's already perilous economy as well as unnecessarily putting our own citizens at risk."
The Democratic senators signing the letter were Joan Carter Conway and Verna L. Jones, both of Baltimore; Paul G. Pinsky and Nathaniel Exum, both of Prince George's County; and Sharon M. Grosfeld of Montgomery County. Democratic delegates signing it were Elizabeth Bobo and Frank S. Turner, both of Howard County; Joanne C. Benson of Prince George's County; Salima Siler Marriott of Baltimore; Karen S. Montgomery of Montgomery County; and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Baltimore County.
The leaders of the anti-war letter, Mr. Pinsky in the Senate and Mrs. Bobo in the House, could not be reached for comment last night.
In a statement released late yesterday afternoon, Mr. Ehrlich defended the president and the decision to go to war.
"The aggression under way is the direct result of Saddam Hussein's contempt for the United Nations' firm and unambiguous commitment to disarm him. I applaud President Bush, Prime Minister [Tony] Blair, and the other 43 members of the allied coalition for leading the way and ask other Marylanders to do the same," he said.
"The goals of this war are clear: liberate millions of oppressed and tortured people, disarm a brutal dictator and continue to destabilize the global network of terrorists that threaten free people everywhere," he said. "The suggestion that these goals could lead to other nations' aggression is naive and unjust.
"Thousands of the world's most highly trained and well-equipped soldiers are carrying out the will of their chief executive, their Congress and the overwhelming majority of the American public. They are executing their responsibilities in a way the world has never seen and for purposes for which the world will soon be grateful," Mr. Ehrlich said.

Project Exile, one of Mr. Ehrlich's priorities this year, is languishing in House and Senate committees with 10 days left before the scheduled end of the 2003 session.
Mr. Ehrlich said when he announced details of his plan Feb. 4 that he wanted to increase firearms restrictions to crack down on "gun bangers" he said are responsible for much of the violent crime in Maryland.
The primary focus of the legislation is to expand the list of gun crimes eligible for mandatory minimum sentences and to make sure felons serve the full minimum sentence.
So far, House and Senate committees have not voted on 18 of the 30 gun-related bills introduced this year, including Mr. Ehrlich's Project Exile initiative.
The governor's bill has been held up in the Senate by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat and chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, who wants to incorporate some gun-control measures into the administration bill.
"We're talking, but so far nothing," Mr. Frosh said yesterday. "I'm willing to accept part of Project Exile if they will accept some reasonable gun measures as well."
Mr. Frosh is pushing a proposal to make it a crime if gun owners do not report lost or stolen firearms to police.
Kenneth Masters, the governor's chief legislative aide, said the administration plans to continue talks with Mr. Frosh in hopes of getting a bill out of his committee.
Mr. Frosh also would like the bill to include a ban on sales of assault weapons. The federal ban will expire unless it is extended by Congress, and gun-control supporters in the legislature want to put a Maryland law on the books in case Congress does not act.
The House Judiciary Committee also has not voted on the governor's bill.
Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George's County Democrat and the committee chairman, said he is waiting to see what the Senate does with the governor's bill before bringing it up for a vote in his committee.

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