- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ted’s gospel

With Christmas under fire from many directions, you might think you’d heard the worst. But you’d be wrong.

Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America says “a new low” was reached on the Senate floor last week, when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, “in his relentless pursuit of political advantage … expounded the gospel according to Ted.”

“Rather than debate whether the word ‘Christmas’ should appear in our stores and on our greeting cards,” Mr. Kennedy asked fellow senators, “shouldn’t we be living out the hope that came from the first Christmas and do more for our fellow citizens than greater tax breaks for the rich and greater hardship for the poor and everyone else?”

“There you have it,” responds Mrs. LaRue. “Mary and Joseph’s real mission in Bethlehem was to protest Herod’s wealth and the lack of affordable housing for the poor. Why else would a woman several months pregnant take a back-numbing donkey ride of 60-80 miles? The real hope of Christmas isn’t Jesus saving us from our sins — it’s politicians saving us from the rich.”

Feingold and Graham

“Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wants to be president, and that’s fair enough. By all means, go for it in 2008,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“The same applies to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who’s always on the Sunday shows fretting about the latest criticism of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war on terror. But until you run nationwide and win, senators, please stop stripping the presidency of its constitutional authority to defend America,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“That is the real issue raised by the Beltway furor over last week’s leak of National Security Agency wiretaps on international phone calls involving al Qaeda suspects. The usual assortment of senators and media potentates is howling that the wiretaps are ‘illegal,’ done ‘in total secret,’ and threaten to bring us a long, dark night of fascism. ‘I believe it does violate the law,’ averred Mr. Feingold on CNN Sunday.

“The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America’s Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn’t be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the senators are ‘illegally’ usurping presidential power — and endangering the country in the process.”

A galling stance

“Anyone who wonders whether the Democratic Party in general and Sen. Hillary Clinton in particular are really tough on terror — or are just posing for the cameras — needs to look at the vote by the entire Democratic Senate delegation (excepting only Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson) to prevent closure of their filibuster against the Patriot Act extension,” New York Post columnist Dick Morris writes.

“While the legislation President Bush proposed extends the entire act, certain key provisions are set to expire at year’s end. (The rest of the act is good until September 2007.) By voting to allow these provisions to lapse, the Democrats have shown a total disregard for national security,” Mr. Morris said.

“It is particularly galling that Sens. Clinton and Chuck Schumer — whose New York constituents are in the terrorists’ bull’s-eye — voted to let these vital protections expire.

“How galling? One of the key provisions due to expire in two weeks is one that President Bill Clinton presented as the cornerstone of his response to the escalation of terrorism in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“The measure allows ‘roving wiretaps’ — so that the FBI can tap all phones a suspect uses, rather than just one specific number. Hillary’s vote to let this provision expire is incredible.

“Back in the ‘90s, the Republican-controlled Congress refused to enact the legislation promptly — and the Clintons excoriated the GOP for dragging its feet on this vital proposal.

“After 9/11, the measure became law in the Patriot Act; it remains a centerpiece of the War on Terror. Yet now Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Party in the Senate are voting to kill it, by preventing a vote on the measure to extend it.”

Abramoff talks

Attorneys for Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff are in discussions with the Justice Department about his possible cooperation in a congressional corruption probe, a person involved in the investigation told the Associated Press last night.

The probe involves a number of members of Congress as well as staff. A former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, already has pleaded guilty.

Mr. Abramoff would plead guilty under an arrangement that would settle a criminal case against him in Florida, as well as potential corruption charges in Washington, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The person describing the ongoing discussions said they have been going on “a long time, months.”

Only in the past week or so have they come “close to any kind of fruition,” the person said, cautioning that unspecified issues remain to be worked out.

The New York Times first reported on the talks last night on its Web site.

Faith-based prisons

Corrections officials in Florida — the only state that has three prisons entirely devoted to religion-based treatment programs — say their experiences mirror those of a new study in a Mississippi prison that found such programs reduce anti-social behavior by inmates.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush started the first religious prison — an all-male medium-security facility ?? on Christmas Eve two years ago. Since then, two other such prisons for high-risk inmates have been opened.

Data from the first two prisons show fewer behavioral problems than in conventional prisons.

“It appears we have less discipline reports. … We are seeing better conduct,” Franchatta Barber, deputy assistant secretary of institutions programs for the Florida Department of Corrections, told The Washington Times.

Even when inmates in the religion-centered prisons act up, Mrs. Barber said, their offenses “usually are nonviolent.”

Kent R. Kerley, an Alabama criminal justice professor who conducted the newly published Mississippi study, says faith-based prison programs are a growing trend. “This wave started when George W. Bush became president,” he said.

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

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