- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

‘Economic chaos’

California has “no choice but to cut spending” to solve its fiscal crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said last night in his maiden State of the State speech.

Addressing a joint session of the California Legislature, the actor-turned-politician warned that the state risked bankruptcy unless government expenditures were curbed.

“We have no choice but to cut spending, which is what caused the crisis in the first place,” the Republican governor said in the televised address, according to Associated Press. “These are cuts that will challenge us all. But we cannot give what we do not have. If we continue spending and don’t make cuts, California will be bankrupt.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger — elected to replace unpopular Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in a recall election last year — takes over a state with a deficit of nearly $15 billion.

The new governor did not detail his budget proposal, to be released Friday, but said that cuts would be imposed at all levels of government.

He asked voters to approve a $15 billion bond on the March ballot.

“The alternative is economic chaos,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said.

Dean’s fib

Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean, during a candidates’ debate in Iowa on Sunday, “baldly lied in a way that may come back to haunt him,” New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.

Mr. Dean, criticized by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for once having suggested that President Bush might have known in advance of the September 11 terrorist attacks, responded: “You better go look what I said about Saudi Arabians tipping off the president. I said I didn’t believe it, and I said it right on that show.”

Mr. Podhoretz said, “Here’s the totality of what Dean said on Diane Rehm’s National Public Radio show in December: ‘The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can’t — think it can’t be proved — is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is .. .’

The columnist said, “Do you see anywhere in this quote an assertion that Dean ‘didn’t believe it’? (He did use those words on ‘Fox News Sunday’ a few weeks later, after a firestorm erupted on the matter.)”

“Rarely has a major-party candidate told as blatant (and as easily checkable) an untruth in a debate,” Mr. Podhoretz writes.

Clark’s accusations

Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark charged Monday that Vice President Dick Cheney, not President Bush, “has called a lot of the shots,” and that the administration went to war in Iraq for “purely political” reasons.

Mr. Clark, interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” was asked, “Tell me what you think about the performance of Dick Cheney, vis-a-vis the president. Is he calling the shots, or is the president calling the shots?”

Mr. Clark replied: “Well, my information, and it’s based only on limited inside information, is that he’s called a lot of the shots.”

When asked why the administration chose to go to war in Iraq, Mr. Clark replied: “I think it was purely political. I think it started with a Republican Party pledge, an effort to embarrass the Clinton administration. It swelled and just grew out of control.

“And finally, they decide that, after 9/11, they needed to do something. They needed to look really strong. And Afghanistan looked problematic. … I think they just decided this was the opportunity. Let’s go for Saddam Hussein.”

Mr. Matthews asked: “Would you say the president of the United States traded American lives for electoral votes?”

Mr. Clark: “Well, I can’t say that. … ”

Mr. Matthews: “You just did.”

Waiting on Harkin

Al Gore and Bill Bradley have endorsed the presidential candidacy of Howard Dean, but one more important Democratic endorsement could come as early as today, CNN political editor John Mercurio wrote yesterday in the Morning Grind column at www.cnn.com.

“Sources tell the Grind that Sen. Tom Harkin, the most popular and influential Democrat in Iowa, will announce whether he’ll endorse a presidential candidate, perhaps as soon as [today]. Harkin will endorse either Dean or Dick Gephardt,” Mr. Mercurio said.

Religion and politics

The Anti-Defamation League expressed unhappiness yesterday that some presidential candidates recently have started to emphasize their religious beliefs.

“Candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters,” said Barbara B. Balser, national chairwoman of the league, and Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the league. “However, we feel strongly that appealing to voters on the basis of religion is contrary to the American ideal and can be inherently divisive, wrongly suggesting that a candidate’s religious beliefs should be a litmus test for public office.”

The remarks were part of a letter sent to President Bush and each of the nine candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination.

The league said the letter was prompted, in part, by recent statements in the campaign by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

The group said Mr. Dean had made several references to religion in recent days, including “I’m pretty religious … I pray every day, but I’m from New England so I just keep it to myself.” Mr. Lieberman recently said: “[The candidates] forget that the constitutional separation of church and state, which I strongly support, promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”

Rowland subpoena

Gov. John G. Rowland, Connecticut Republican, received a federal subpoena yesterday for all documents relating to improvements at his summer cottage, personal investments, tax returns and all gifts, the Associated Press reports.

The subpoena marked the first time that any of Mr. Rowland’s personal records have been sought by federal investigators. Ross Garber, Mr. Rowland’s chief legal counsel, told AP he saw the subpoena yesterday, which he said was not a surprise, but he did not have a copy.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wants copies of all records of work done on the cottage in Litchfield, and all gifts Mr. Rowland has received from state employees, anyone doing business with the state or seeking to do business with the state.

The governor originally said he paid for all the work himself, but later admitted that a state construction contractor, as well as friends and employees, paid for some of the work in the form of gifts. Staffers said Mr. Rowland was working on a speech to be televised today.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202.636-3285 or [email protected].

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