- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

Clarke cheerleaders

The news divisions of ABC, NBC and CBS acted as cheerleaders for former terrorism official Richard A. Clarke, despite considerable evidence that Mr. Clarke was acting as a political partisan, the Media Research Center reports at www.mediaresearch.org.

“Several events on Wednesday undermined former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke’s contention that the Bush team’s failure to adequately pursue al Qaeda in its first months in office made the attacks possible,” the conservative media watchdog said in a summary of Wednesday’s news broadcasts.

“[Fox News Channel] disclosed how in 2002, Clarke had defended the Bush record, during his testimony Clarke conceded that any actions by the Bush team would have been too late to prevent the attacks and commissioners pointed out how, in 14 hours of private testimony, Clarke hadn’t made any of his anti-Bush claims. Yet none of the developments bruised Clarke’s credibility with the networks who treated his anti-Bush take as authoritative.

“They looked at Clarke’s 2002 words not from the perspective of his inconsistency, but as proof of how he’s under attack from the White House. ABC called it ‘a ferocious counterattack.’ CBS’s John Roberts characterized Clarke’s testimony as ‘electrifying’ and trumpeted: ‘What Richard Clarke had to say captivated all who heard it.’ ”

Kerry’s past

In a question-and-answer session before a Senate committee in 1971, John Kerry, who was a leading antiwar activist at the time, asserted that 200,000 Vietnamese per year were being “murdered by the United States of America” and said he had gone to Paris and “talked with both delegations at the peace talks” and met with communist representatives, the Boston Globe reports.

Mr. Kerry, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, confirmed Wednesday through a spokesman that he did go to Paris and talked privately with a leading communist representative. But the spokesman played down the extent of Mr. Kerry’s role and said Mr. Kerry did not engage in negotiations, reporters Michael Kranish and Patrick Healy wrote.

Asked about the appropriateness of Mr. Kerry’s saying that the United States had “murdered” 200,000 Vietnamese annually when the United States was at war, Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said “Senator Kerry used a word he deems inappropriate.”

Mr. Meehan said Mr. Kerry “never suggested or believed and absolutely rejects the idea that the word applied to service of the American soldiers in Vietnam.” Mr. Meehan then declined to say to whom Mr. Kerry was referring when he said that the United States had murdered the Vietnamese; Mr. Kerry declined to be interviewed about the matter.

Rumsfeld and Clarke

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says former White House terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke gets at least a couple of things wrong in his new book, “Against All Enemies: Inside the White House’s War on Terror — What Really Happened.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said that, contrary to Mr. Clarke’s book, after the September 11 terror attacks he did not ask the president to issue written instructions for the Pentagon to prepare for an invasion of Iraq.

“I can’t find anybody who knows me who thinks that I go around insisting to the president that he do something like that, nor can I find anyone who was around during that period in senior levels who thinks that I even might have done something like that. I just can’t imagine where that comes from,” Mr. Rumsfeld said during a news conference yesterday at the Pentagon.

Mr. Rumsfeld, in another reference to Mr. Clarke’s book, said: “Someone handed me, as I was coming down here, a quote from a book that indicates that I was in a meeting I guess on a certain date and that I looked distracted, and it happens — (chuckles) — I wasn’t in the meeting. So people can be mistaken, and I even think I have been on occasion.”

Judicial rejection

A state board shouldn’t have approved petition forms being circulated by a group trying to end racial preferences at Michigan public universities and other public agencies, a judge ruled yesterday.

The decision could at least slow down a petition drive aimed at letting voters decide the issue in November. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is trying to get at least 317,517 valid signatures of registered voters by July 6 to put the proposal on the ballot.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Paula Manderfield ruled that the Board of State Canvassers breached its duty by approving the petition, the Associated Press reported.

Judge Manderfield said the petition does not reflect that the initiative would “alter or abrogate” existing provisions of the Michigan Constitution as it should have. She ordered the board to rescind its approval of the petition in its current form.

Honorary chairmen

Former Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and nationally syndicated Radio America talk-show host Michael Reagan have agreed to serve as honorary chairmen of the American Conservative Union’s (ACU) 40th Anniversary Gala Banquet.

“ACU is honored that Senator Helms — a legendary conservative of impeccable credentials — has graciously agreed to serve as honorary chairman of this milestone event,” the organization’s chairman, David A. Keene, said in a prepared statement. “Senator Helms has been a steadfast friend of ACU and his involvement in our conservative movement makes it the powerhouse it is today.”

He added: “We are equally delighted to have the Reagan name associated with our upcoming 40th anniversary. Michael Reagan has agreed to represent his father, who I’m certain would attend were he able. Ronald Reagan was a true friend of ACU, speaking to our annual Conservative Political Action Conference seven of the eight years he was president.”

ACU’s black tie gala is scheduled for May 13 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington.

Barbour and Benji

The latest Benji, adopted from a Mississippi Gulf Coast animal shelter, was honored as the Mississippi pet of the year.

“This puppy — we need to send it over to the Legislature,” Gov. Haley Barbour joked as Benji sat calmly by the Republican’s side in the governor’s Capitol office Wednesday.

“Have you ever seen anybody better behaved?” Mr. Barbour said.

The world premiere of “Benji Returns: Rags to Riches,” scheduled yesterday in Jackson, Miss., will benefit a children’s hospital and an animal shelter. The movie’s general release begins June 11 in Texas and the Southeast. It opens nationwide by July 30.

“Benji Returns” is the first Benji film in 16 years. Set in Mississippi, it’s the fourth film based on a character created in 1974 by Joe Camp.

The latest Benji — a 3½-year-old female — is the fourth dog to play the character. The new Benji was adopted in the fall of 2001 from the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi after a nationwide search of animal shelters.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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