- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

‘Feel it creeping’

Leave it to Vermont to offer a public referendum on the Iraq war.

In 52 towns, residents vote today on a resolution that asks President Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq and urges state leaders to reconsider sending local National Guard troops to war. Fourteen Vermont soldiers have died in the Iraq conflict.

There has been other anti-war posturing: In Brattleboro, town officials recently eliminated the phrase “Freedom is not free” from a bridge dedicated to a fallen soldier because it sounded “jingoistic.”

“This resolution has prompted the kind of constructive debate that should be happening not only in Washington, but in every community in the country, and Vermonters again are setting a good example of civic responsibility and participation,” noted Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat.

Organizers hope the issue will add piquancy to scores of town meetings.

“The timing is pretty special because there is a real concern about the war that is growing. You can feel it creeping,” said Ben Scotch of Montpelier told the Boston Globe.

Some say national referendums and town ballots don’t mix.

“These things are all good now and again,” said Frank Bryan, a political scientist at the University of Vermont. “But there is the risk of people using town meetings for whatever particular interest they might have.”

Grover’s neverland

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee yesterday took on fellow Republican and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.

Mr. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has criticized Mr. Huckabee for signing a sales-tax increase, though Mr. Huckabee said he was only responding to a court order to put more money into the state’s schools.

“Grover’s never been in government, doesn’t have to balance a state budget, never had a state constitution forcing him to deal with a balanced budget,” Mr. Huckabee said at a meeting with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.

“Grover’s never been in a situation where he couldn’t borrow money so he didn’t have to raise taxes or tell old people he’s just going to take them out of the nursing home and drop them on the curb,” he continued.

“If Grover wants to run for governor, there’s an election next year in Arkansas. He can get his residency requirements lined up. And there are 36 other states he can run in next year,” the governor offered.

Mr. Huckabee, who is term-limited and cannot seek re-election next year, allowed that he appreciates Mr. Norquist’s holding elected Republicans’ feet to the fire on taxes “so government doesn’t grow out of sight.”

Soul of their party

Tinseltown dreams of replacing Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Republican — if they can stop quibbling among themselves, that is.

Victoria Hopper, wife of actor Dennis Hopper, enlisted 16 actors and philanthropists to sign a letter objecting to the potential candidacy of Rep. Jim Langevin, now being recruited for the 2006 race by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

The group instead supports the primary candidacy of Matt Brown, Rhode Island secretary of state.

“It is a fight to protect women and families, and a fight for the core and soul of our party. Unbelievably, some conservative D.C. Democrats have recruited Rep. Jim Langevin, a radically anti-choice candidate,” the letter stated.

Michael Guilfoyle, a spokesman for Mr. Langevin, said, “The support of Rhode Island voters is more important than money from Hollywood.”

The letter is the latest sign of resistance from abortion-rights supporters to efforts by some Democrats to find middle ground in the abortion debate, the New York Times said yesterday..

Phil Singer, a spokesman for the DSCC, said the party was looking for the strongest possible candidate “without applying any litmus test.”

The faithful speak

Some Catholics are irked with Newsweek writer Christopher Dickey.

“Even as the aged pope’s body shuts down in the late stages of Parkinson’s disease, his will to live — and to impose his will on the Roman Catholic faithful — remains as stubborn as ever,” said Mr. Dickey in the magazine’s current issue, adding that if Pope John Paul II fell into a coma, “Could anyone — would anyone — pull the plug?”

Countered a sarcastic William Donohue of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights yesterday, “When presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt continue in office despite poor health, they are regarded as courageous, even heroic. But not Pope John Paul II — he has a duty to die.”

He continued, “Any man who can impose his will on 1.1 billion people surely can impose his will on his own doctors. The very idea that this despotic pope has left anything to chance is beyond comprehension. That Dickey can’t connect his own dots does not speak well for his intellect, which is why it’s time for Newsweek to pull the plug on his column.”

‘Broader principles’

The White House Correspondents Association has spoken, issuing the following statement yesterday after weeks of controversy surrounding Jeff Gannon, a former White House journalist who had been granted press credentials but who later was accused by partisan critics of being a “Republican operative.”

“Since 1914, the White House Correspondents Association has operated independently of the White House and the White House credentialing process. We intend for the White House Correspondents Association to remain independent of that process.”

“Consistent with the First Amendment, the White House Correspondents Association stands for inclusiveness in the credentialing process so that the White House remains accessible to all journalists. We hope that individual episodes do not obscure the broader principles of a fair and evenhanded credentialing process that serves the goal of free and full exchange of information.”

Without Delay

Testimony began yesterday in Austin, Texas, for a case brought by five Democrats, who say a political action committee started by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay improperly spent $600,000 in corporate contributions to unseat them.

An attorney for the treasurer of Texans for a Republican Majority denied the accusation.

Texas law bans the use of corporate money to influence the outcome of an election, but allows its use for administrative costs such as rent or utility bills.

Mr. DeLay has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has congressional immunity from being forced to testify. But evidence presented in the civil case could affect an ongoing criminal investigation that has resulted in indictments against three top fund-raisers for DeLay.

Among witnesses subpoenaed to testify: Texas Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick and Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, the state’s largest business lobby. Neither is a defendant in the lawsuit, the Associated Press reports.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] at 202/636-3085.

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