- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Powell fires back

Members of the president’s Cabinet — even those who are admired by Democrats — have begun to intensify their defense of President Bush’s National Guard service during the Vietnam War.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell took sharp exception yesterday when, during a budget hearing before the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, mentioned in passing that Mr. Bush “may have been AWOL.”

“First of all, Mr. Brown, I will not dignify your comments about the president, because you don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Mr. Powell, in a sharp break from his normally controlled demeanor.

When Mr. Brown protested that he had only said Mr. Bush “may” have avoided service, Mr. Powell replied, “Let’s just not go there.”

“If you want to have a political fight on this controversial matter, which the White House is dealing with, fine,” Mr. Powell said. “But let’s not go there here.”

Later in his reply to Mr. Brown, a still-heated Mr. Powell directly admonished a Democratic staffer standing behind the congressman who had been shaking his head as Mr. Powell spoke. “I seldom come to a meeting where I am talking to a congressman and I have people aligned behind you giving editorial comment by head shakes,” Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Brown said he could not recall a committee witness reprimanding a staff member, but Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, countered that “the secretary is owed an apology for that, not reprimand.”

Outraged Democrats

Key Democrats yesterday demanded that the Bush administration stop airing what they say are misleading and illegal ads about the new Medicare prescription-drug law.

The ads should stop until the General Accounting Office finishes investigating the matter, Democrats say.

“We think the facts and law are clear: This is a propaganda effort with taxpayer dollars in violation of the law,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat. “I’m all for educating seniors, but I will always stand firm against misleading people on Medicare.”

Democrats said the administration’s television and print ads, as well as their planned fliers explaining the new Medicare law, cost $22.6 million and violate a law that prohibits the executive branch from using taxpayer dollars to produce materials for “propaganda or publicity.”

“The Bush administration is actually using scarce Medicare funds to finance the Bush re-election campaign,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. “That’s unacceptable.”

The GAO began looking into the matter this week.

Too late for Kerry

“The White House [on Tuesday] released more records documenting President Bush’s service in the Air National Guard during the 1970s, and no doubt the press corps will look them over carefully. But we shouldn’t leave this tawdry little campaign episode without a roll call of responsibility,” the Wall Street Journal said.

“John Kerry tried to take the high road [Tuesday] by offering no comment on the White House news and claiming ‘it’s not an issue that I chose to create. It’s not my record that’s at issue, and I don’t have any questions about it.’ This is a mere two days after the senator made a very big deal out of Mr. Bush’s military record, slip-streaming in the wake of Democratic boss Terry McAuliffe’s claim that Mr. Bush was ‘AWOL’ and Michael Moore’s that the president is a ‘deserter.’ It’s a little late now for Mr. Kerry to say, ‘Out, damned spot.’

“It’s worth asking what has prompted Mr. Kerry’s sudden scruple. Maybe he thinks the political damage he hoped to inflict has been done, and the press corps can take it from here. But perhaps it has also dawned on him that by trying to refight the Vietnam War, he has only opened up his own past to scrutiny he may regret,” the newspaper said.

“After he returned from Indochina, Mr. Kerry became a leader of the antiwar movement, and in particular, of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In its series on Mr. Kerry last year, the Boston Globe reported that the Nixon White House wanted to discredit ‘the young demagogue.’ … Having demanded that Mr. Bush clear the air, Mr. Kerry will hardly be in a position to cry foul.”

Kerry’s 1970 views

Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry called for U.N. control of the U.S. military in an interview 34 years ago with Harvard University’s student newspaper.

Mr. Kerry was a long-shot congressional candidate in Massachusetts when he was interviewed by the Crimson in February 1970. He was also a 26 year-old Vietnam veteran fighting against the war.

He described himself as “an internationalist” and said he wanted “to almost eliminate CIA activity.”

“I’d like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations,” Mr. Kerry said.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Kerry has said he supports the autonomy of the U.S. military and has not called for a reduction in CIA operations.

They want in

A number of former presidential candidates and third parties filed suit yesterday to force the Federal Election Commission to decertify the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Candidates as diverse as Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader argued that the debate panel is a partisan group controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties.

Federal law requires debate sponsors to be nonpartisan in order to put on the debates and fund them with corporate monies. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, asks the court to declare that the FEC’s failure to act on a previous complaint is improper and to order the election-oversight agency to act.

The plaintiffs include the Natural Law, Constitution and Green parties, which intend to field or support third-party candidates in this year’s presidential contest.

Mr. Buchanan said in the suit that the debate panel’s exclusionary rules were the only reason he is not running for president this year. Plaintiffs John Hagelin, Howard Phillips and Winona LaDuke all ran for president or vice president in 2000 and decided not to run in 2004, citing similar reasons.

Judicial quack-up

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia strongly indicated he will ignore calls to recuse himself from a case involving his friend and hunting partner, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Justice Scalia told a gathering at Amherst College in Massachusetts on Tuesday night there was nothing improper about his accompanying Mr. Cheney to Louisiana last month to hunt ducks.

The trip came three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Bush administration’s appeal in a case involving private meetings of Mr. Cheney’s energy task force.

“This was a government issue. It’s acceptable practice to socialize with executive-branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack,” Justice Scalia said.

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

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