- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

‘Bama boots tax rise

Alabama voters yesterday overwhelmingly rejected Gov. Bob Riley’s $1.2 billion tax package.

With 82 percent of precincts reporting last night, 742,446, or 68 percent, opposed the plan while 345,811, or 32 percent, voted for it.

The margin of more than 2-to-1 was a repudiation of the Republican governor, who had promoted the largest tax increase in the state’s history as the way to raise Alabama from the bottom of national education rankings.

“It’s an irrefutable message,” said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, now co-chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy, who campaigned against the tax increase.

David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, told the Associated Press: “The opponents were able to play on the voters’ cynicism about politicians in Alabama, that the tax increase wasn’t necessary, and that even if it did pass the money wouldn’t go to education.”

The Alabama Legislature is expected to be called into special session in about a week to deal with a $675 budget deficit. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Mr. Riley, a Southern Baptist in a Bible Belt state, suggested that Christian voters ought to help the poor by reforming a state tax structure that he called immoral.

Cuba ban challenged

The House yesterday defied a threatened presidential veto in moving to lift the four-decade restriction on travel to Cuba. Lawmakers also voted to lift the caps on the amount of money that could be sent to Cuban households.

The restriction on visits to Cuba, said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, is “not only ineffective, it curbs the basic American freedom to travel and to export American ideals and values.”

The vote to open travel to Cuba drew less support than a similar measure last year, a reflection of the Castro government’s recent crackdown on political dissidents, the Associated Press reported. The House vote yesterday was 227-188.

It’s unconscionable after the arrests of nearly 80 dissidents, said Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, “to be here seeking to reward the dictatorship for its deplorable action.”

Guarantors for freedom

We must soldier as the second anniversary of September 11 looms over the nation. So says Brendan Miniter in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Online:

“To overcome terrorism, Americans must remain willing to pay the price of mastering our emotions. We must not give into the cravenness of fear, nor the seduction of half-measures. America is, as Ronald Reagan said, the last, best hope of mankind because our resolve and courage are the best guarantors for freedom,” he writes.

Does America have the moral authority to stand up? he asks.

“If so, then as Americans we must act. Today we have a president who is willing to take the battle to the terrorists even in the face of international pressure to do nothing. But for too long as a nation we’ve allowed our culture, driven by a fear of offending anyone, to drift toward timidity.”

He later observes: “Ministers once reinforced the moral authority of a free people by preaching that freedom was God’s gift to mankind. Today that message is largely left to the president.”

Democrats, he writes, “offer us the middle ground between good and evil. The terrorists are now showing themselves in Iraq and giving us a chance to kill them. We vowed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks never to forget. But those will prove to be empty words if we forget where we must continue to stand.”

A cautionary tale

What happens if Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich fails to win the Democratic nomination for president? He may have some explaining to do.

A lifelong Catholic, Mr. Kucinich has consistently opposed abortion during his four terms in office, and counts on Catholics for support as he also seeks a fifth term in Congress.

But 18 months ago, the Ohio Democrat abandoned his position and now supports a woman’s right to choose, according to yesterday’s Des Moines (Iowa) Register.

“It’s just thrown everybody into total confusion over where he is,” said Molly Smith of Cleveland Right to Life. “He’s really damaged himself on this particular issue.”

Mr. Kucinich said his views have “evolved,” but have nothing to do with his presidential aspirations.

“It became clear to me that this wasn’t only about the right to choose, that this was about a woman’s equality in society,” he said. “The years of discussion that I had with women in Congress, with women in my own life, suddenly began to click.”

Mr. Kucinich was praised by the local Planned Parenthood center. But Jim Trakas, Republican Party chairman in Cleveland and a state lawmaker, doesn’t buy it.

Mr. Kucinich’s switch, he said, was a “blatantly political move.”

The last roundup

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday called a third special session of the Legislature to take up a congressional redistricting plan that has been thwarted twice by walkouts from the Democrats. The session begins Monday.

During two previous Republican attempts to redraw Texas’ congressional districts, Democratic lawmakers fled the state, depriving the Republicans of the quorum needed to conduct business.

The Republican governor’s announcement came after 10 Democratic state senators who were in New Mexico boycotting the Legislature relented and announced that they would return to Texas and take part in an expected third special session, the Associated Press reports.

Eleven Democrats in all slipped across state lines July 28 and stayed away for about six weeks to block a vote on redistricting. But one of the 11, Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, defected last week and said he would attend another special session if the governor called one.

That left the 10 remaining Democrats without the numbers to block a quorum.

“If Whitmire makes a quorum, then we need to be on the Senate floor,” state Sen. Judith Zaffirini said.

Twenty-one of the Senate’s 31 members must be present for business to be conducted.

Dismissing Arnie

In the past few weeks, stars Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Cybill Shepherd and Sylvester Stallone have all criticized Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign for California governor.

Now the Dixie Chicks have joined the ranks. But this time, it’s not the group’s lead singer, Natalie Maines, doing the talking.

Band member Emily Robinson, touring Europe as part of the female country trio, told the German paper Abendzeitung on Monday that Mr. Schwarzenegger “is a great film star. But I find his idea to run for governor absolutely insane. America should be governed by people who have a clue. I hope he doesn’t win.”

The group habitually comments on politics. Just days before the start of the war in Iraq in March, Miss Maines criticized President Bush before a London audience, saying she was ashamed he was from Texas.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or (202) 636-3085.

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