- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Uniting the GOP

“Shortly after stepping off a plane at Dulles Airport last week, Rep. Duncan Hunter was on a cell phone delivering a surprisingly stern message to a few reporters. Coverage of the debate in the Senate to ‘ban’ the use of torture, the Armed Services Committee chairman said, was inaccurate and unfair,” Brendan Miniter writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Mr. Hunter’s beef was that it is already illegal for any American to torture someone overseas and such a crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or execution if the torture victim dies. To underscore his point, Mr. Hunter followed up on Tuesday with a press release noting that ‘contrary to widespread media reports, torture is [already] banned under American criminal laws.’ The release included copies of the applicable criminal code,” Mr. Miniter said.

“Democrats might have seen this as a signal not to push too hard on the war lest they risk uniting a fractured Republican Party. But they didn’t heed it. By midweek, Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, introduced a resolution aimed at pushing political moderates to oppose the war in Iraq.

“His plan called for ‘redeploying’ U.S. troops out of Iraq over the next six months, leaving a ‘rapid reaction force’ in the region and then pursuing U.S. goals through ‘diplomatic’ means. It was a crafted political proposal that was meant to be an alternative to ‘staying the course’ while not calling for outright withdrawal. It was a return of ‘peace without victory.’ And it backfired.

“The Murtha resolution was intended to allow Democrats to have their cake and eat it too — to oppose the war while confusing the issue by pretending to support the war’s aims of a free and democratic Iraq. Instead of fighting on the ground staked out by Democrats, Republicans chose clarity. Mr. Hunter introduced a simple, one-paragraph resolution calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Late Friday night, the House voted the resolution down 403-3.”

Powerful friends

One of the most powerful members of the House usually does not need the vice president to campaign for him, but then again, this is an unusual time for Rep. Tom DeLay, reports the Houston Chronicle.

So on Dec. 5, Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to speak at what promises to be a lucrative re-election fundraiser in Houston for the Texas Republican.

The vice president’s first appearance on Mr. DeLay’s behalf is proof that the lawmaker, who faces two felony charges in Texas, still has powerful allies.

Some of the highest-ranking Republicans in Texas, including Gov. Rick Perry and Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, are listed as chairmen for the event.

An apology, sort of

Rep. Jean Schmidt, Ohio Republican, said yesterday she should have rephrased her sharp critique of a fellow congressman’s call to immediately pull troops from Iraq, the Associated Press reports.

Democrats booed Mrs. Schmidt off the House floor Friday after she criticized Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, for saying that “cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”

Mrs. Schmidt, who sent Mr. Murtha a note of apology Friday moments after her speech, said in a statement yesterday that she never intended to attack Mr. Murtha personally.

“I only take exception to his policy position,” Mrs. Schmidt said.

Mr. Murtha has called Mrs. Schmidt’s initial comment ridiculous.

About those ‘cuts’

“Journalists remain unable to tell the difference between a slight reduction in increased spending and an actual spending cut,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“A budget bill, passed by the House very early Friday morning, the Cato Institute estimated, will provide for $7.75 trillion in entitlement spending over five years instead of $7.8 trillion, a mere 0.6 percent difference as the bill overall would reduce planned ever-rising federal spending over the next five years by a piddling one-third of 1 percent. Yet reporters saw disaster ahead.

“‘The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers,’ The Washington Post ominously warned.

“On Friday’s ‘Today,’ Ann Curry asserted: ‘During the night the House passed $50 billion in budget cuts by two votes. Opponents say the cuts will hurt the poor.’

“‘CBS Evening News’ anchor Bob Schieffer echoed the Post’s spin about ‘cuts in programs for the poor, for farmers and students.’

“The ‘NBC Nightly News’ devoted a whole story to the ‘cuts’ and how ‘Democrats charged Republicans with taking from the poor to give more tax cuts to the rich,’ but Chip Reid at least noted that ‘Republicans also say the bill doesn’t really cut spending, it just slows the rate of spending growth.’”

Giving senators gas

“A funny thing happened to gasoline prices at the pump over the weekend — just in time for the trip to grandma’s on Thursday,” the Wall Street Journal said yesterday in an editorial.

“The national average for Sunday was $2.24 a gallon, according to the AAA, and in many states Americans were paying $1.99 or less. That’s a big drop from the highs of $4 in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the Gulf region’s refining capacity was temporarily knocked out. Oil prices have also tumbled from a high of $71 a barrel at the end of September to $57 a barrel now — about a 20 percent decline,” the newspaper said.

“As gas prices rose, the national media devoted doom-and-gloom headlines day after day to the hardships placed on cash-strapped consumers. Americans were scolded for their dangerous and selfish addiction to oil. We were told to trade in our SUVs, turn down the thermostat, and prepare for a winter with home heating prices doubling or tripling. Some energy economists were predicting $100-a-barrel oil by the end of the year.

“Since the rule of modern journalism is that good news never qualifies as news, we’re not too surprised that with the energy ‘crisis’ averted for now, the media has responded with a giant yawn. They’ve moved on to the next crisis du jour. Perhaps Jennifer Aniston is breaking with her latest beau.”

About that ‘X’

CNN said yesterday that the a giant “X” that briefly appeared over Vice President Dick Cheney’s face during a speech Monday was the result of a technical error and not an editorial comment by anybody at the network.

“I have come back into the control room because we want to explain something to you that happened on this newscast yesterday,” CNN’s Daryn Kagan said. “During our live coverage of a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney, there was a technical malfunction; you’ll see it here.

“It involved a switcher, something we call a switcher. It’s a machine that we use to switch between visual elements. Now, that glitch resulted in that ‘X’ that you saw being flashed briefly across the screen as the vice president was speaking.”

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

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