- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

DeLay’s response

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that he has done nothing wrong ethically, and is eager to talk to the ethics committee about recent news reports questioning whether two overseas trips he took, paid for by interest groups, violated House standards.

“I feel confident I’ve done nothing wrong,” the Texas Republican said.

He harshly criticized a series of stories in The Washington Post, which reported Mr. DeLay took a trip to South Korea in 2001 that was paid for by a group that had registered as a foreign agent and another trip to Britain in 2000 that the newspaper said largely was funded by an Indian tribe and gambling interests. The paper said Mr. DeLay later voted against a bill the tribe and gambling interests opposed.

Mr. DeLay, though, said the stories were “seriously flawed” and read a lengthy statement to reporters detailing why he voted against the bill, and later voted for another one.

The Texan was admonished twice last year by the ethics panel, but for now rank-and-file Republicans are standing by him.

And the White House offered some support, with press secretary Scott McClellan telling reporters at yesterday’s briefing, “We join with other congressional leaders in our support for Congressman DeLay, and we will continue to work closely with him to get things done for the American people.”

Scalia’s critique

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the court’s recent decision to strike down the juvenile death penalty, calling it the latest example of politics on the court that has made judicial nominations an increasingly bitter process.

In a 35-minute speech Monday, Justice Scalia said unelected judges have no place deciding issues such as abortion and the death penalty. The court’s 5-4 ruling March 1 to outlaw the juvenile death penalty, based on “evolving notions of decency,” was simply a mask for the personal policy preferences of the five-member majority, he said.

“If you think aficionados of a ‘living’ Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again,” Justice Scalia told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. “You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That’s flexibility.”

“Why in the world would you have it interpreted by nine lawyers?” he said.

Rehnquist applauded

A smiling Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer, presided yesterday over a meeting of the federal judiciary’s policy-making group with humor and received two standing ovations, a judge in attendance said.

“He seemed to be very comfortable and very pleased with how it all went,” Judge Carolyn Dineen King, chief judge for the U.S. appeals court based in New Orleans, told reporters after the meeting. “He did great.”

Chief Justice Rehnquist, 80, was diagnosed with the cancer in October. His only appearance at a public event since his diagnosis was to swear in President Bush in January for his second term in office.

The Judicial Conference meeting was closed. Judge King, who chairs the group’s executive committee, said Chief Justice Rehnquist presided over the two-hour meeting at the Supreme Court without any breaks. “From my standpoint, it was business as usual,” she said.

Bush’s gamble

President Bush is in the middle of a vigorous campaign for Social Security reform. New national polls suggest support for his reform plan to be slipping,” pollster John Zogby writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“While my polls have revealed solid majority support among voters under 50 years of age, intensity levels are far greater among voters who oppose Mr. Bush’s plan, especially those over 50. A coalition of seniors, unions, and anti-Bush independent committees are bent on defeating the president, who can claim just one Democratic member of Congress among his supporters, and whose Republicans in Congress are at best tepid on the idea of personal accounts,” Mr. Zogby said.

“Why would the president risk his political capital on a plan that appears doomed to failure? I think the answer lies well beyond the politics of any single reform plan. And the president may end up a winner if his call for personal accounts ultimately fails. After all, he has raised a serious issue that needs attention — the very solvency of Social Security — which Democrats have never touched. Huge majorities of voters understand that the current system is in trouble.

“But there is a much bigger picture. The president’s real prize would be a significant realignment in party politics. … Like the New Deal, the president’s ‘ownership society’ is a compelling new vision and veritable redefinition of a society less dependent on government largess, of a middle class more independent and more capable of securing financial security on its own.”

The ‘anti-Arnold’

Vowing a sharply different agenda than RepublicanCalifornia Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, a Democrat, said yesterday he would seek his party’s nomination for governor of the Golden State.

Mr. Angelides told a rally at a San Francisco elementary school he plans to run as the “anti-Arnold,” a reputation he has diligently cultivated in the state capital of Sacramento since Mr. Schwarzenegger took office.

Mr. Angelides, who had long said he would run for governor, is the first major state official to throw his hat into the ring, Reuters news agency reports. Mr. Schwarzenegger has yet to say if he will seek re-election.

Gephardt’s future

Former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt is headed to Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, an investment-banking firm, the Hill newspaper reported yesterday.

The Missouri Democrat, who twice failed to win the Democratic presidential nomination, said through an aide he would not lobby, though he declined to provide further details about the role he would play.

A Gephardt adviser said the former congressman also is negotiating with several law firms, including St. Louis-based Bryan Cave, where his former chief of staff, Steve Elmendorf, is heading up a strategy group.

The adviser said Mr. Gephardt also has talked with two other law firms and was planning to serve on the board of St. Louis-based beer brewing behemoth Anheuser-Busch.

Mr. Gephardt declined to comment in detail about his talks with Goldman Sachs, instead issuing a short statement: “I have made no final decisions regarding my next career, and any conclusions drawn about future plans are premature.”

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

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