- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Liberal judges await

Throw Away the Key, a Maryland-based victim-advocacy group yesterday denounced the U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed the death penalty for criminals under 18.

“By suggesting that 17-year-olds are less responsible for their actions, the court has given a dangerous new gift to teen predators to use liberal judges to further reduce penalties for murders, rapes and gang violence perpetuated by teen predators,” said spokesman Michael Paranzino.

“For urban communities racked by gang violence, the court has just made the violence problem worse. America’s working-class families will now pay for the justices’ preening for Old Europe’s approval,” he said, accusing the court of “undermining the U.S. Constitution by citing foreign laws and imposing them on Americans.”

Mr. Paranzino added, “Until Americans realize that these court decisions are simply a handful of unelected people imposing their political preferences over the text of the U.S. Constitution, judicial reform will not happen.”

Thou shalt display

Americans favor displaying the Ten Commandments on the grounds of government buildings, according to an Associated Press poll released yesterday.

“Do you believe the display of the Ten Commandments ought to be allowed on government property such as courthouses, or not?” the survey asked.

More than three-quarters — 76 percent — said “yes.” Another 23 percent disagreed and 1 percent of respondents were not sure. The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted last Tuesday to Thursday and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

Mary, not Karen

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer’s new tell-all “Taking Heat: The President, the Press and My Years in the White House” is being disputed before it’s even on store shelves.

Mr. Fleischer, who manned the hottest hot seat in the world from 2001 to 2003, hopes his 370-page memoir will be a must-read.

“An adviser to President Bush scoffed at the book’s claim that Fleischer was reluctant to join Bush’s front-running 2000 campaign and had to be ‘convinced’ by top adviser Karen Hughes — after Fleischer’s candidate, Elizabeth Dole, dropped out in late 1999,” the New York Daily News reported yesterday.

“After the Dole campaign imploded, Ari was working the phones hard looking for another campaign job. At the same time, the Bush camp was looking for a flack with extensive Washington experience — something that was lacking in Austin. It was Mary Matalin (whom Ari doesn’t even mention) who suggested him to Karen and the only reason he got the job. Far from being reluctant, Ari jumped at the chance.”

Fiscal fitness

The Cato Institute passed out its biennial report cards on the fiscal performance of the nation’s governors yesterday. Overall, the grades on taxes and spending were pretty mediocre, with nearly half the governors receiving a C or lower.

Cato gave an “A” to only two, both Republicans: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado.

The highest-scoring Democratic governor is Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who received a “B” for cutting the state income-tax rates and slashing the capital-gains tax in half.

Getting an “F,” or failing grade: Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and Republican Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio. Locally, Virginia’s Democrat Gov. Mark Warner, who raised taxes last year, earned a “D,” and Maryland’s Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. drew a “C.”

Sound bites

Is it case closed — or is Douglas Wead facing something ominous?

His secretly recorded tapes of his conversations with President Bush are now in the hands of the president’s private attorney, the White House confirmed yesterday.

“It’s a matter that we consider closed at this point,” press secretary Scott McClellan said, adding that the tapes were in “private hands.” He would not elaborate on whether they would be destroyed.

Mr. Wead, meanwhile, is in deep mea culpa over the tapes, made without Mr. Bush’s knowledge between 1998 and 2000 and released to press outlets last month.

Many critics think Mr. Wead was hoping to plug his new book, “The Raising of a President.” He now says he’ll donate any profits from the book to charity.

DeLay defense

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said he did nothing wrong when a conservative organization paid for his trip to London five years ago to meet with British conservatives.

“The trip was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research. That is reflected in my disclosure form,” Mr. DeLay told reporters yesterday. “I did everything I’m supposed to do.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has called for the House ethics panel to investigate Mr. DeLay after the National Journal cited his trip and said the Texas Republican violated House ethics rules.

“The House gift rule clearly states that lobbyists cannot pay a member’s travel expenses, but the expense voucher submitted by lobbyist Jack Abramoff indicates that this is precisely what he did for Mr. DeLay,” she said.

The lawmaker insisted NCPPR paid for Mr. DeLay’s trip and that he obeyed the rules. But when asked whether the assistance was offered or whether he asked the group to fund the trip, Mr. DeLay repeatedly avoided an answer.

He finally told reporters “I don’t know whose idea it was. It was five years ago.”

Three’s the charm?

For the third time, Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, will introduce one of his favorite bills today on Capitol Hill, and has signed up prominent clergymen to speak in its favor.

“HR 235” — the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act — specifies that religious leaders may speak on political and moral issues from the pulpit and offer personal opinions on candidates. Currently, clergy who take a position on a moral issue during the campaign season risk being penalized by Internal Revenue Service rules that forbid political activity.

Mr. Jones’ thinks freedom of speech should apply to churches and clergy as well.

“We’ve got to get it done this year,” he told 800 Christian activists at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week.

Oil fight

Republicans in Congress said yesterday that they plan to refight the issue of drilling in a part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), only by putting the provision in a budget-reconciliation bill that Democrats can’t foil with a filibuster.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican and Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, said he was “very optimistic we’re going to get the ANWR provision in this budget,” the Associated Press reports.

Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican and Budget Committee chief, said about an ANWR provision after meeting privately with Republicans on his panel that “the president asked for it, and we’re trying to do what the president asked for.”

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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