- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

Not this year

For the first time since Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is refusing to meet with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mr. Adams, head of the political party affiliated with the Irish Republican Army, came to the United States this past weekend to seek support from Irish-American activists amid outrage over recent IRA activities.

But although Mr. Kennedy has met with Mr. Adams every St. Patrick’s Day since the Good Friday peace pact seven years ago, the Irish-American senator informed Mr. Adams there won’t be a meeting this year, according to Kennedy spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner.

The spokeswoman cited “the IRA’s ongoing criminal activity and contempt for the rule of law” as the reason for Mr. Kennedy’s decision.

Sinn Fein is reeling from accusations that the IRA mounted the world’s largest bank robbery, stealing $50 million from a Belfast bank on Dec. 20, and was responsible for killing a Catholic civilian outside a Belfast pub on Jan. 30.

Torturing the truth

“It’s hard to recall now, but in the wake of September 11, prominent liberals mused publicly about the possible need to torture al Qaeda captives. Only three years later, they’re devoting their time to assailing U.S. officials responsible for prying information out of terrorists,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“The latest alleged scandal concerns so-called ‘renditions,’ or the policy of turning over prisoners to foreign countries so they can do the interrogating. Some of the places — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan — don’t have our legal scruples, so by turning over these suspects the Bush Administration is said to be condoning torture again. For a little perspective, allow us to cite no less a rendering authority than Sandy Berger, former national security adviser to Bill Clinton,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“It happens that in the spring of 1996, the government of Sudan offered to deliver Osama bin Laden (then living in Khartoum) into U.S. custody. The Clinton administration was aware of the threat bin Laden posed, but it worried it didn’t yet have sufficient information to indict him on terrorism charges in court. Instead, the U.S. sought to have the Saudis take bin Laden and behead him.

“‘In the United States, we have this thing called the Constitution, so to bring him here is to bring him into the justice system,’ Mr. Berger told The Washington Post in October 2001. ‘I don’t think that was our first choice. Our first choice was to send him someplace where justice is more “streamlined.”’ In the event, the Saudis were in no mood to take bin Laden, Mr. Berger did not press the matter, and bin Laden left for Afghanistan on a chartered plane.

“In other words, the Clinton administration used the rendering practice with the avowed expectation that suspects would be tortured, or worse. The Bush Administration says it uses it only on condition of humane treatment and assigns personnel to ‘monitor compliance.’ If this is a torture scandal, it didn’t start on September 12, 2001.”

Getting it wrong

“It was a classic Washington story,” Paul Bedard writes in the “Washington Whispers” column of U.S. News & World Report.

“According to a Page 1 Washington Post story, short-fused Defense Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld had about had enough of pesky members of Congress during a recent hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. So he cut his testimony short, went to lunch, and headed to an afternoon Senate hearing.

“‘Donald Rumsfeld,’ said the paper the GOP loves to hate, ‘doesn’t do accommodating very well.’ Loaded language? Some inside the paper thought so. Worse: Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said the story wasn’t right. Seems there was a deal to let Rummy leave early.

“Hunter wrote the Post, but the paper didn’t run the letter. So when Rumsfeld appeared before the panel again last week, Hunter explained, ‘You did precisely as we agreed to.’ Rumsfeld thanked Hunter for the ‘very accurate explanation.’ Then he added, ‘I wonder if it will appear in The Washington Post. Probably not.’

“It didn’t.”

Really bad advice

President Bush has gotten a lot of bad advice lately on how to promote Social Security reform, but none worse than the recommendation he cease talking up individual retirement accounts funded by payroll taxes,” the Weekly Standard says in an editorial.

“Oddly enough, this advice has come from both Republicans and Democrats. Republican [Senator] Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says Bush should concentrate on ensuring the solvency of Social Security. Investment accounts, he says wrongly, have nothing to do with that. Meanwhile, Democrats insist they won’t sit down and negotiate a bipartisan compromise until the president abandons the idea of using payroll taxes for individual accounts altogether. This advice would be entirely comical if it weren’t so transparently self-serving,” said the editorial, written by Fred Barnes.

“Our advice is quite different. Rather than fall silent on personal accounts, the president should talk about little else. Without the prospect of giving every worker, no matter how poor, a chance to invest in and actually own financial assets, Social Security reform loses its innovative quality. It is bereft of any political appeal, especially to lower-income workers. It’s no longer even real reform, but merely a tug-of-war over how much Social Security taxes are going to be hiked or how far benefits are going to be cut.

“Democrats would love to fight on this terrain. It would reduce Bush to their level and operate to their advantage. If the argument is over raising taxes or cutting benefits, Democrats will always win by emphasizing an increase in the Social Security tax rate (now 12.4 percent) or lifting the cap on income subject to payroll taxation (currently $90,000).”

Tag team

Former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle joins the Washington office of Alston & Bird LLP, an Atlanta-based law firm, today.

The former Senate Democratic leader will serve as a “special policy adviser” in the firm’s Legislative and Public Policy Group, Cox News Service reports. Senate ethics rules bar him from directly lobbying Congress for one year.

He will join Bob Dole, the former Republican senator from Kansas, who is now “special counsel” at the firm. Both men have served as Senate leaders.

“We won’t be lobbying, but we’ll provide strategic policy advice” to clients dealing with government, Mr. Daschle said.

By working with Mr. Dole, “we can get different perspectives,” he said. “People are going to have the benefit of both a Republican and Democratic perspective — that’s one of the strengths we can offer.”

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

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