Friday, October 8, 2004

A debate request

The Rev. Welton Gaddy and Paul Weyrich yesterday urged Charles Gibson and Bob Schieffer to raise questions in the presidential debates about the influence of the candidates’ religion and personal faith on policy-making.

Mr. Gaddy, president of the liberal Interfaith Alliance, and Mr. Weyrich, a leading religious conservative and chief executive of the Free Congress Foundation, signed joint letters to Mr. Gibson of ABC News and Mr. Schieffer of CBS News, moderators of the second and third joint appearances of President Bush and Democratic White House nominee Sen. John Kerry, the Christian Wire Service reports.

“We believe that it is imperative for the candidates — unscripted and before a national television audience — to profess to the nation how religion and their personal faith impacts them both as a human being and as a candidate for the nation’s highest public office,” the men wrote.

Reporter in contempt

A reporter for the New York Times was held in contempt yesterday by a federal judge and faces jail time for refusing to divulge confidential sources to prosecutors investigating the leak of an undercover CIA officer’s identity.

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered reporter Judith Miller jailed until she agrees to testify about her sources before a grand jury, but said she could remain free while pursuing an appeal. Miss Miller could be jailed for up to 18 months.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating whether a crime was committed when someone leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose name was published by syndicated columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Mr. Novak cited two “senior administration officials” as his sources.

Duelfer vs. Kennedy

Charles A. Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, refused to back down Wednesday when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, denounced the continued search for weapons of mass destruction as a waste of time and money.

After noting that Mr. Duelfer has more than a thousand people on his staff, Mr. Kennedy went on the attack.

“But isn’t this a total waste of money? I mean, why does the search keep going on, and on and on, and aren’t we at the point where we have to admit the stockpiles don’t exist, and then, what’s obviously become a wild goose chase?”

Mr. Duelfer strenuously objected to the term “wild goose chase.”

“We’ve had a … couple of people die; we’ve had many people wounded,” Mr. Duelfer said. “And to tell them that they’ve been involved in a wild goose chase, to me is — it’s not really what we were doing.”

Uses of hindsight

The new report from the Iraq Survey Group confirmed what most already had assumed — that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion, The Washington Post said yesterday in an editorial.

Noting that President Bush says he would have invaded even knowing what he knows now, and that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry says he would not have, the newspaper opined, “Yet in reality no president could have known what is known now. As long as Saddam Hussein remained in power and refused to cooperate fully with the United Nations, there could have been no certainty about his weapons. …

“What can’t be known is what would have happened had Mr. Bush chosen not to invade. Here, the new report suggests some answers. Saddam Hussein, it says, was focused on ending international sanctions, which were crumbling before the crisis began. Had he succeeded, he would have resumed production of chemical weapons and probably a nuclear program as well. Mr. Kerry suggested recently that Saddam Hussein’s regime would have collapsed under the inspectors’ pressure. That is one possibility; another is that it would have re-emerged as a significant power in the Middle East, and as a de facto or real ally of the Islamic extremist forces with which the United States is at war.”

The newspaper said the larger question “is how, or even whether, decisions about pre-emptive war can be made in the absence of unambiguous intelligence.”

Hammer time

Democrats wasted no time in using ethics-related rebukes of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to rally support for their party in the upcoming elections.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out an e-mail last night, citing the Wednesday night rebuke of the Texas Republican by the House ethics panel, noting that it was Mr. DeLay’s second rebuke from the committee recently.

The letter also notes that three of his “cronies” were indicted in Texas, and points out that “even conservative groups like Judicial Watch” are calling for him to resign his post.

“The ugly truth is that it is Tom DeLay who controls what bills can be discussed in the House, and which will never see the light of day. The sad truth is that Republicans in Congress today support his extreme agenda and are rallying around him. But the truth that matters most is this: YOU have the ability to remove him from power!” the e-mail reads.

It then goes on to urge readers to either donate to the DCCC, sign up for a nationwide set of Democratic house parties on Oct. 24, or volunteer to help on key campaigns.

Newspaper defunded

Cornell University’s student government has pulled funding from the Cornell American, a conservative student newspaper that was slated to receive money from a student-activities fund last month.

The American has been at the center of two fights at Cornell this year. The campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People objected to the paper in April because it published an article opposing racial preferences in admissions.

This fall, the American heavily criticized the use of student-fee money to sponsor an on-campus show involving cross-dressing.

“Cornell’s student association would rather fund drag shows and political correctness than diversity of thought,” said American publisher Michael Hint.

Courting Hispanics

Focus on the Family, a group led by James Dobson, has launched a Hispanic Voter Education Initiative that will use extensive radio, television, print and Internet outreach on the theme of “I vote values.”

Yuri Mantilla, director of international government affairs at Focus on the Family, will lead the campaign, the group said this week.

“We know that 93 percent of our people are Christians,” said Mr. Mantilla, adding that his group wants to turn Hispanics “into the most powerful pro-family influence in the United States.”

The initiative will include Spanish-language TV commercials and programming, as well as radio broadcasts and public service announcements on Hispanic radio and television outlets, the group said. Materials will be distributed through pastors, priests and other religious leaders and via the initiative’s Web site,

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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