- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

Carter and Baker

Former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III announced yesterday that they will co-chair a Commission on Federal Election Reform to examine the state of America’s federal elections and recommend improvements.

Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker have assembled a private, bipartisan commission whose membership includes former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, former U.S. Reps. Lee H. Hamilton and Susan Molinari, university presidents, scholars and community leaders.

The Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University will organize the work of the commission, in association with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, the Carter Center and electionline.org, a national clearinghouse of election reform information sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Perry vs. Hutchison

A video snippet showing Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking kindly of Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at a Washington event came from a tape made by two men working for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign, the campaign said yesterday.

Perry campaign director Luis Saenz confirmed the making of the video in a report published in Wednesday’s online edition of the Austin American-Statesman, the Associated Press reports.

“We’re being very aggressive in everything we do,” Mr. Saenz said. “And you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Mr. Perry, a Republican, is bracing for a potential primary challenge by Mrs. Hutchison in 2006. Mrs. Hutchison hasn’t said whether she will run against him.

In the 46-second video, circulating rapidly by e-mail among conservative activists, Mrs. Clinton tells audience members that she is “delighted that Kay is my partner on so many important fronts.”

The senators pose — smiling — and lightly embrace twice.

The two appeared at a March 3 event at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, which is devoted to women’s history, on Capitol Hill, a museum spokeswoman said.

Hutchison spokesman Chris Paulitz said Tuesday that employees of Mr. Perry used state Republican leaders — many of whom have written Mrs. Hutchison urging her to abandon consideration of a challenge to Mr. Perry next year — to spread the video and “take silly political shots. Senator Hutchison is doing her job, and at this critical time, the governor should focus on doing his.”

In love with death

“I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people,” Peggy Noonan wrote yesterday at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“What is driving their engagement? Is it because they are compassionate and their hearts bleed at the thought that Mrs. Schiavo suffers? But throughout this case, no one has testified that she is in persistent pain, as those with terminal cancer are,” the columnist said.

“If they care so much about her pain, why are they unconcerned at the suffering caused her by the denial of food and water? And why do those who argue for Mrs. Schiavo’s death employ language and imagery that is so violent and aggressive? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans ‘brain-dead.’ Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ‘a slithering snake.’

“Everyone who has written in defense of Mrs. Schiavo’s right to live has received e-mail blasts full of attacks that appear to have been dictated by the unstable and typed by the unhinged. On Democratic Underground, they crowed about having ‘kicked the [expletive] out of the fascists.’ On Tuesday, James Carville’s face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren’t a buffoon.

“Why are they so committed to this woman’s death?

“They seem to have fallen half in love with death.

“What does Terri Schiavo’s life symbolize to them? What does the idea that she might continue to live suggest to them?

“Why does this prospect so unnerve them? Again, if you think Terri Schiavo is a precious human gift of God, your passion is explicable. The passion of the pull-the-tube people is not.”

The left revealed

“Tricked-up public opinion polls on the Schiavo case have allowed some commentators to pretend that Congress stumbled politically when it passed the law benefiting Terri’s parents,” Hugh Hewitt wrote yesterday at the Weekly Standard’s Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“Absurd. It was the right thing to do, and the focus on the facts of the case daily adds to the number of people who know that to be true,” Mr. Hewitt said.

“At the same time, the anti-religion bias and rhetoric of the hard left specifically have leapt into public view again, as ordinary people supporting the parents find themselves denounced as fanatics and zealots. Liberal blogger and University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole went so far as to declare that ‘President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders like Tom DeLay have taken us one step closer to theocracy on the Muslim Brotherhood model.’

“This statement earned Cole a place on the Ward Churchill All-Stars and elicited from [Pepperdine] Professor James Q. Wilson the response that Cole’s conclusion ‘of course, is pure nonsense. It is hard to believe that a professor at a major university can utter such silliness, but if you want to hear silliness, sometimes you have to go to a university to hear it.’

“Whenever the collective attention of the country turns to one drama, all sorts of unexpected revelations occur. In this case, we see confirmed two long-standing assumptions of the center-right: Courts will often wrongly defy Congress and the president; and a large section of the left has nothing but contempt for people of faith.”

Rules for Internet

The Federal Election Commission yesterday took its first step in extending campaign-finance controls to political activity on the Internet, asking for public input on limited regulations for the freewheeling medium.

Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who took the lead on drafting proposals with Vice Chairman Michael Toner, described the steps as “restrained.” The commission emphasized a hands-off approach to bloggers, or authors of Web logs, among the loudest and unruliest voices online.

“We are not the speech police,” said Mrs. Weintraub, a Democrat. “The FEC does not tell private citizens what they can or cannot say, on the Internet, or elsewhere.”

The draft guidelines suggest applying limits that exist in other media to certain political advertising on the Web and political spam e-mail.

The six-member commission approved a work in progress and invited public comment for 60 days before a June hearing. Republican David Mason was the sole dissenter, the Associated Press reports.

The commission said it was exploring Internet regulation reluctantly — ordered to do so by a court — and with the lightest touch possible, exempting everything except certain kinds of paid political advertising.

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

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