- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

Newt and Hillary

Longtime political foes Newt Gingrich and Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday joined forces to cheerfully promote legislation on health care changes, joking that some might view it as a sign of a soon-to-come doomsday.

Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, and Mr. Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker from Georgia, appeared outside the Capitol to promote a bill that would modernize medical record-keeping, the Associated Press reports.

The senator joked that their joint effort has raised plenty of eyebrows since they began working together behind closed doors on a panel examining ways to improve military effectiveness.

“At our first meeting, when we were agreeing so much with each other, I think people thought: ‘The end is near,’” she said.

As first lady, Mrs. Clinton spearheaded a White House health care reform effort that failed in Congress. The resistance to her effort helped fuel Mr. Gingrich’s “Contract with America” and his rise to the speaker position in 1995.

Democratic plan

“Here’s a little fact some folks would rather you not know. The Democrats actually do have a plan to save Social Security,” Stanley Kurtz writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Their proposal was authored by MIT economist Peter Diamond and Brookings Institute fellow Peter Orszag,” Mr. Kurtz said.

“Diamond-Orszag resembles the president’s plan in that it proposes substantial reductions in the rate at which Social Security benefits increase. Diamond-Orszag’s benefit ‘cuts’ (really, lower benefit increases) are smaller and more progressive than the ‘cuts’ proposed by the president. Yet Diamond-Orszag pays for these smaller cuts with a substantial tax increase.

“Once you see the Democrats’ plan to save Social Security, several things become clear. First, Social Security is in serious trouble. Even the Democrats can’t save it without painful changes. Second, the Democrats’ own proposal shows that any realistic plan to save Social Security requires benefit cuts.

“The president’s plan makes up 70 percent of the Social Security revenue shortfall through benefit cuts. The Democrats’ plan makes up 50 percent of that shortfall through broadly similar cuts. It’s tough to indict the president for callous indifference to the plight of retirees when we’re talking about a 20 percent difference between two plans.

“Third, the Democrats’ proposal shows that the real alternative to benefit cuts is a major tax increase. In short, once the public knows what the Democrats’ plan actually says, it will quickly become impossible to use Social Security as a hammer against the Republicans.”

Stem-cell vote

House Republicans are split over legislation on which they soon might have to vote that would expand President Bush’s embryonic stem-cell policy, and a group is urging support for the bill with ads in two Capitol Hill newspapers and a soon-to-be nationwide television ad campaign.

The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of centrist House Republicans, have been promised a vote by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois on the issue of expanding embryonic stem-cell research. The group began running ads this week in Roll Call and the Hill in anticipation of a vote in coming weeks. Ads also will appear on national cable TV in a few weeks.

The centrist Republicans are pushing for a vote on a bill sponsored by Delaware Rep. Michael N. Castle, Main Street president. The legislation would allow federal funding for research using embryos from in-vitro fertilization clinics that otherwise would be discarded. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, is pushing for a Senate vote on the bill, and supporters say prospects are good that it will pass both chambers.

Mr. Castle’s group also commissioned surveys of 800 Republican voters and 13 Republican districts nationwide. The polls, done by Republican firm the Winston Group, found Republicans favor embryonic stem-cell research 55 percent to 38 percent, and conservatives are split, with 46 percent supporting it and 48 percent opposing it.

Meanwhile, some House conservatives are angry that the vote is being allowed.Derek Karchner, spokesman for Rep. Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican who opposes the bill, said that when people are educated about how the embryos are destroyed to extract the stem cells, support for the research and for Mr. Castle’s bill declines.

Rice on gun rights

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recalled last night for CNN how her father took up arms to defend fellow blacks from racist whites in the segregated South and said the constitutional right to keep and bear arms is as important as free speech and religion.

In an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Miss Rice said that her minister father and his friends armed themselves to defend the black community in Birmingham, Ala., against nightriders in 1962 and 1963.

She said that if local authorities in segregated Birmingham, where Miss Rice was born in 1954, had lists of registered weapons, she did not think her father and other blacks would have been able to defend themselves.

Miss Rice said, “We have to be very careful when we start abridging rights that the Founding Fathers thought very important.”

She said they understood “there might be circumstances that people like my father experienced in Birmingham, Alabama, when, in fact, the police weren’t going to protect you.”

“I also don’t think we get to pick and choose from the Constitution,” she said in the interview, which was taped for airing last night. “The Second Amendment is as important as the First Amendment.”

Presidential perks

Pro golfer Ben Crenshaw was among those who landed invitations to spend the night at the White House or Camp David last year.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush had about 150 overnight guests at the White House and the presidential retreat in 2004, according to a list released Wednesday by the White House at the request of the Associated Press.

A few Republican governors and their spouses also made the guest list. They include presidential brother Jeb Bush of Florida, George E. Pataki of New York, Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Jim Douglas of Vermont and Rick Perry of Texas.

In contrast to the Hollywood-studded roster of the Clinton years, Mr. Crenshaw was the biggest celebrity on the president’s sleepover list. Mr. Crenshaw of Austin, Texas, is a longtime Bush friend who raised at least $100,000 for the Republican’s 2004 re-election campaign.

Family values

A Florida county Republican chairman says his bid to head the state party was sabotaged because a letter falsely accused him of having been married six times, the Associated Press reports. The right number, he says, is five.

“That’s unconscionable,” Seminole County Republican Party Chairman Jim Stelling said Tuesday in the trial over his defamation suit. “I have four children and eight grandchildren that I love dearly. I believe in family values.”

He is seeking unspecified damages in his lawsuit against Nancy Goettman, a former county Republican executive committee member who sent out a letter to party executives statewide days before the 2003 election for chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

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

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