- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Powell vs. Kerry

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday he is offended by presidential candidate John Kerry’s assertion that politics led the Bush administration to hold off on an agreement for Libya to give up its nuclear-weapons programs.

Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” asked Mr. Powell to respond to this statement by Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee: “Gadhafi’s been trying to get back into the mainstream for several years now. There’s evidence that we could’ve had that deal some time ago.”

Mr. Powell replied: “It’s absurd. I don’t know what Senator Kerry’s talking about. It’s just absurd. That took time to bring that deal together. And I’ve been following it very, very closely for a number of months. And when finally the United States and the United Kingdom negotiators got a deal with Libya, we acted on that deal and we announced that deal. It was not held up for any campaign or political purpose.”

When Mr. Wallace remarked, “You seem offended by it,” Mr. Powell said, “Well, it is offensive, because it’s a political charge in a political year. And I expect that we will be hearing and seeing many more charges and many more such video clips. But I don’t know what basis Senator Kerry is using to make such a statement. I mean, what is his evidence for this, other than an assertion on his part? It’s not accurate.”

The secretary of state also said that Mr. Kerry was wrong in suggesting that Mr. Powell “has never been permitted to be fully secretary of state.” He challenged the senator to “name a specific issue where it looks like I have been marginalized.”

Those negative ads

CNN political editor John Mercurio, writing in the Morning Grind column at www.CNN.com, noted this statement Thursday from Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee: “Bush going up with negative ads this early in the season only proves that desperate times call for desperate measures. With negative job growth, a negative trade balance and a budget firmly in the negative, it seems only fitting for the Bush team to employ a negative campaign strategy.”

Mr. Mercurio commented: “‘This early in the season,’ Jano? C’mon.

“What about Sept. 3, 2003? hat’s when Kerry first ran a TV ad calling Bush’s jobs record an ‘astonishing failure.’ Kerry promised in that ad to roll back Bush’s tax cuts and to be a president, presumably unlike Bush, who’s ‘on the side of America’s middle class.’

“Or howzabout Oct. 31? Aside from being Halloween, it’s the day Kerry first aired a spot in Iowa charging Bush’s administration ‘works for those at the top, not you,’ and has passed ‘the biggest tax cuts in history to the wealthy.’

“‘George Bush and Dick Cheney let polluters and oil companies rewrite our environmental laws. They defend the loopholes that let corporations avoid taxes by moving jobs overseas,’ an announcer says in that Kerry spot, entitled ‘Courage.’

“We could go on, really,” Mr. Mercurio said.

“The Democrats’ argument goes something like this: Sure, Kerry ran those ads. But, you see, that was waaaay back in the Democratic primary, those ads were only intended to appeal to Democratic primary voters. So, y’know, if Republicans or independents happened to view the ads and take away a negative impression of Bush, well, we can’t control that! Now, we’re in the general-election campaign. It’s a whole new ballgame. The clock starts over.

“Please. No clocks, no ballgames. Kerry ran negative ads before Bush did. Period.”

No celebration yet

John Kerry will wait until after tomorrow’s Illinois primary to declare himself winner of the Democratic presidential race, campaign aides say.

It has been reported that Mr. Kerry has won enough Democratic delegates to clinch the nomination, but the media’s count includes “superdelegates” elected officials and other top party members who can switch their votes at any time.

Mr. Kerry is waiting until he wins enough delegates through caucuses and primaries to declare victory, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Illinois primary is expected to put Mr. Kerry over the top.

Worried mother

President Bush’s mother is worried that his re-election bid could end up like his father’s losing effort, Time magazine reports.

Barbara Bush “does not want to see her family go through a ‘92 thing again,” a Bush campaign official told the magazine.

Mr. Bush’s wife, Laura, and his mother are increasingly questioning the agility and management of the current president’s campaign, Time said, quoting two “well-placed sources.”

“They are paying attention,” the Bush campaign official told the magazine.

Dean redux

The bombings in Madrid proved that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has not made the world safer, former presidential candidate Howard Dean said yesterday.

“For the president of the United States to assert that we were safer because Saddam Hussein is in jail is ludicrous, given what happened three days ago in Spain,” Mr. Dean, a Democrat who made opposition to the war the centerpiece of his campaign, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Out of the hospital

Attorney General John Ashcroft was discharged from a Washington hospital yesterday after an operation this week to remove his gallbladder.

“The Ashcrofts are grateful for the many friends and well-wishers who kept them in their thoughts and prayers during this illness,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “They would also like to thank people for respecting the attorney general’s need for quiet rest as he continues to recover.”

A department spokesman could not say when Mr. Ashcroft will return to work, Reuters news agency reports. That decision would be up to his doctors, but Deputy Attorney General James Comey will run the Justice Department until Mr. Ashcroft returns, the department said.

Doctors found several gallstones after Mr. Ashcroft checked into George Washington Hospital 10 days ago with a severe case of gallbladder pancreatitis. His gallbladder was removed to prevent a recurrence of the illness, which is extremely painful and can be life-threatening.

Rios out

The public policy group Concerned Women for America said Friday that Sandy Rios has stepped down as the group’s president.

Mrs. Rios, a conservative activist and pundit, is a familiar face to many Americans, thanks to her frequent TV appearances on behalf of pro-family causes.

A spokesman for CWA, who described the parting as “amicable,” said Mrs. Rios left her post on March 1 “over irreconcilable differences concerning the administration of the organization,” United Press International reports.

“We are sad to have lost a valued leader,” CWA founder Beverly LaHaye said, adding that the group would “continue to be that voice in the battles over life and liberty that challenge us today, especially on the critical issues of marriage.”

Concerned Women for America has 500,000 members, making it the nation’s largest public-policy women’s organization.

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

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