- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2005

Just in case

House members passed the Continuity in Representation Act yesterday to speed up election of their own replacements should they die in a catastrophic event.

The House voted 329-68 to send the “doomsday measure” to the Senate for approval. The bill requires special elections within 49 days if more than 100 of the House’s 435 members are killed.

It is a cultural moment for lawmakers.

“None of us in this chamber or in this nation wants to think of a scenario that would compel the speaker to invoke this legislation, but such are the responsibilities of leadership in the post-9/11 world,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.

“In the event of the unthinkable, this bill strikes a blow to the heart of the terrorists,” said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

It currently can take 75 days or more to hold special elections. Some, however, grumble that 49 days doesn’t allow enough time to organize a ballot.

“I understand the good intent behind the bill, but it is not enough,” said Rep. Brian Baird, Washington Democrat. “History will not look kindly upon the jeopardy [in which] we have left this great nation.”

Fancy footwork

Unable to wrest answers from the White House on “Gannongate,” five top Democrats say they will force a vote in Congress to spur a House investigation.

The quintet of heavyweights from the House Judiciary, Government Reform, Homeland Security, Rules, and Ways and Means committees filed a resolution of inquiry yesterday to demand that the Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department surrender any documents they have concerning James Guckert’s access to the White House.

Mr. Guckert, also known as “Jeff Gannon,” wrote for a conservative online news operation. Democrats say the White House used him as a plant to further the administration’s agenda.

Under House rules, the Democrats said, their resolution has to have a vote in the Judiciary Committee within 14 legislative days. If it is passed, the whole House would have a chance to vote on it.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, repeatedly has failed to get the White House or anyone else to turn over the goods on Mr. Guckert.

“This is a matter of national security and unethical White House media manipulation,” Mrs. Slaughter insisted yesterday. “We intend to find out what the White House is hiding.”

Democracy onstage

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman, a potent and increasingly frequent legislative pair, have teamed up yet again — this time to promote democracy abroad.

The two are sponsoring a bill to establish a “Democracy Movements and Transitions” office at the State Department with regional hub offices at embassies overseas. The pair call for plenty of input from “nongovernmental advisers.”

No word whether those advisers could be Madison Avenue or show biz creatives, though.

“Presidents from Wilson to Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy knew that America’s vital interests are best secured when we help others find their own voice of freedom,” said Mr. Lieberman, one of the most ardent Democratic supporters of President Bush’s call to spread freedom — a centerpiece of his inaugural address.

Mr. Lieberman and Mr. McCain have teamed up on a series of legislation in recent years, including a bill to address global warming and another to sanction Russia for lollygagging on its progress toward democracy.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, and Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, are sponsoring a companion democracy promotion bill on the House side.

Just put it down

Peggy Noonan had some advice for CBS News as Dan Rather prepares to leave his anchorman chair Wednesday: Hire some decent journalists to act as correspondents, she wrote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

“Don’t tell them what the story is from New York, after you’ve read the New York Times and the Washington Post. Let them tell you the story. Let them be our eyes,” Miss Noonan wrote.

“If you allowed your fine and grizzled correspondents to find the answers and tell us, you would get a fresh and refreshing broadcast. But this does involve putting down your copy of the New York Times.

“I worked at CBS 20 years ago and what was true of us then is true now, and true of every other network newsroom: They key evening news coverage off the front page of the New York Times,” she continued.

“Why do they do this? Is it because the Times knows everything? No. And network producers know it doesn’t know everything. But the bosses of the producers read the Times. And the owners of the network read the Times. And the subordinates of the producers read the Times. They do this because it’s there. If it’s in the Times, it’s real.”

Once acknowledged as “the nation’s great newspaper,” the Times “is now simply an esteemed newspaper. And more and more it plays to a niche, Upper West Side liberals wherever they are.”

This just in

“His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei met former U.S. President Bill Clinton at a dinner at the Empire Hotel and Country Club last night.

“Also at the dinner were His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Pg Muda Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah and His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei’s Foreign Minister.

“Mr. Clinton was in Brunei on a personal visit during his whirlwind tour of the tsunami-hit nations in the region,” the Borneo Bulletin reports.

Caging Byrd

Sen. Robert C. Byrd didn’t really mean to imply Republicans were like Hitler. Really.

It was meant “as a warning to heed the past and not as a comparison,” a spokesman for the West Virginia Democrat told the Associated Press yesterday.

Mr. Byrd used the dreaded H-word during a long speech before the Senate on Tuesday, criticizing Republican proposals to limit debate in the chamber on judicial nominees.

“Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality. He recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal,” Mr. Byrd said.

“That is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate,” he said.

The remarks sparked the wrath of Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican; the Republic National Committee; the Anti-Defamation League and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

That group had a pointed remark for the 87-year-old lawmaker.

“With his knowledge of history and his own personal background as a KKK member, he should be ashamed for implying that his political opponents are using Nazi tactics,” said director Matt Brooks, referring to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.

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

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