- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Embracing reform

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, yesterday urged liberals to work with President Bush to reform Social Security, rather than acting as mere obstructionists.

“The late Pat Moynihan used to joke when I asked him why liberals were so reluctant to consider changing Social Security so that it guaranteed wealth as well as income: ‘It’s because they worry that wealth will turn Democrats into Republicans.’ Leaving aside that possible correlation, it will be a shame if liberal voices, values and ideas are not brought into the debate initiated by President Bush’s Social Security reform proposal. To make certain the reforms are done correctly, liberal thinking is urgently needed,” Mr. Kerrey, now president of New School University in New York City, said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

“There is no doubt that Social Security and Medicare are two of liberalism’s most enduring and popular triumphs. And there is no doubt that a vocal and influential minority remains true to its strong conservative belief that the Social Security Act of 1935 and the 1965 amendments to this act, which created Medicare and Medicaid, represent socialistic and dangerous interferences with the marketplace. However, liberals are wrong to fear that President Bush’s proposal represents a threat to Social Security.

“I sincerely hope they do not merely defend their proudest achievement. I hope they see that President Bush is giving them an opportunity to finally do something about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

Influential evangelicals

Since the November election, evangelical Christians have seen their political status soar.

Not only did a “Christian Inaugural Eve Gala” at the Ritz-Carlton attract the likes of White House adviser Karl Rove, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House public liaison Tim Goeglein and former Rep. J.C. Watts, Oklahoma Republican, among others, but now Time magazine has come out with its (apparently first) list of “25 most influential evangelicals in America.”

Its top choice, the Rev. Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., was hardly a surprise, considering how the sales of the megachurch leader’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” have topped 20 million. More interesting was its third-place choice of David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders and former Texas Republican Party chairman as well as the RNC’s liaison to social conservatives during the recent election. In fourth place was Doug Coe, founder and host of tomorrow’s National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton, which is heavily attended by members of Congress from both parties.

Other political picks: former Nixon adviser Chuck Colson (fifth place), Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, White House speechwriter Michael Gerson (ninth place) and Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican (22nd place), who is actually a Roman Catholic, not an evangelical. Fellow Catholic the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus (19th place) also made the list, which shows that Time’s definition of “evangelical” is pretty broad indeed.

Time is not the only publication to draw up such a list. The Church Report, a Phoenix-based publication, recently came out with a “50 most influential Christians in America” list. Its top pick? President Bush.

Feldt vs. Kerry

The outgoing president of Planned Parenthood, Gloria Feldt, criticized Sen. John Kerry yesterday for an ineffective defense of abortion rights during his losing presidential campaign.

“I have great respect for John Kerry, but there’s no question he did not articulate these issues well,” Mrs. Feldt said in an interview with the Associated Press. “He seemed equivocal. He ceded the moral high ground to the other side.”

Mrs. Feldt, 62, resigned last week — effective immediately — after eight years as president of the country’s most influential and controversial family-planning organization.

Mrs. Feldt had been conferring with her board of directors for several months about stepping down and described the departure as amicable — with some differences over timing, but not over strategies.

Mrs. Feldt now plans to write, travel and enjoy new freedom as a speaker. She cited her comments about Mr. Kerry as something she would not have dared say in her former post.

“It’s not our fault that the pro-choice candidate didn’t win,” Mrs. Feldt said, contending many voters were unsure where the Democratic candidate stood on abortion-related issues.

Ethics shakeup?

Rep. Doc Hastings, Washington Republican, is under strong consideration to become the next chairman of the House ethics committee as House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert works to recast the panel, Republican officials told the Associated Press last night.

Mr. Hastings would replace Rep. Joel Hefley, Colorado Republican, as head of the committee, which twice last year issued reports admonishing Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

Several Republican sources told AP that Mr. Hastings had met with Mr. Hastert to discuss the chairmanship of the panel.

“I really haven’t made any decisions yet,” Mr. Hastert said last night.

Mr. Hastings, the panel’s senior Republican besides Mr. Hefley, could not be reached for comment.

One official said an announcement was possible as early as this week. All the Republican sources agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, noting that no decision had been made.

The panel’s actions regarding Mr. DeLay irritated several rank-and-file Republicans, who criticized Mr. Hefley at the time.

Mr. Hastert has long signaled he intends to appoint a new chairman. One official told the wire service that the speaker intends to appoint other new members in addition to a new chairman. The committee has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Wooing blacks

Black conservatives are pulling together to capitalize on commitments by Republican leaders to a new strategy of inclusion rather than outreach.

Plans are under way to organize in key states ahead of the 2006 and 2008 elections, and to include the introduction in February of a “Mayflower Compact for Black America” by a group working with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday.

Party leaders are trying to foster a political realignment that, if successful, would challenge the Democrats’ decades-long lock on the loyalty of black voters. Their success thus far already has Democrats in the Congressional Black Caucus quietly expressing alarm.

“I am frightened by what is happening,” said the caucus’ Rep. Major Owens, an 11-term Democrat from New York. “Our party is in grave danger. This Republican movement is going to expand exponentially unless we do something.”

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

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