- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Kerry’s complaint

Sen. John Kerry yesterday said Hurricane Katrina exposed “a broader pattern of incompetence and negligence” in the Bush administration and showed what a bad choice Americans made in re-electing the president last year.

“The truth is, democracy is not a game. We are living precious time each day in a different America than the one we can inhabit if we make different choices,” Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and his party’s 2004 presidential nominee, said in a speech at Brown University.

Mr. Kerry used the speech as a fundraising technique, sending an advance preview to his e-mail list of supporters along with a link to click if they wanted to contribute to his political activities.

In his remarks, he said the hurricane is a watershed moment for Americans to define themselves, but that the president has failed to lead.

“Yes, they can run a good campaign — I can attest to that — but America needs more than a campaign,” he said. “If 12-year-old Boy Scouts can be prepared, Americans have a right to expect the same from their 59-year-old president of the United States.”

“Armchair quarterbacking on tough issues has never been a problem for Senator Kerry,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, who called his and other Democrats’ recent remarks an “unsavory” attempt to politicize the hurricane.

For nonbelievers

Atheists finally have a lobbyist of their own.

She is Lori Lipman Brown, 47, a former Nevada state senator and lawyer with a background in constitutional law, who is going to work for the Secular Coalition for America, an umbrella group. She’s interested in church-state separation issues and says she intends to “help us move toward the day when humanists and atheists are regarded with the same respect as the rest of society.”

She began work yesterday at the D.C. headquarters of the American Humanist Association and also will be representing the concerns of the Atheist Alliance International, the Institute for Humanist Studies, the Secular Student Alliance and the Secular Web.

“For humanists, having a full-time lobbyist is a historic accomplishment,” said Roy Speckhardt, AHA executive director. “It’s a culmination of our efforts to establish a seat at the table for our views.

“Having a lobbyist focusing on a secular point of view is more essential now than ever before. With the three branches of government drenched in religiosity, we have to let America know that we are here, too.”

Voinovich’s plan

Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, said yesterday that Social Security personal-account proposals aren’t going anywhere this year, but that Congress should pass legislation to lock away federal trust funds, including Social Security dollars, to ensure government can’t spend them.

Mr. Voinovich introduced a bill that would require all specially designated government revenue, including Social Security, be saved for those purposes and not spent on other programs. The government, he said, has borrowed more than $3.5 trillion from various trust funds, including $1.9 trillion from Social Security and $695 billion from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, but that borrowing is not reported to the public as part of the overall deficit.

“What we’ve been doing every year is raiding those trust funds,” he said, arguing that taking the money off the table will reveal the true size of the deficit and force Congress to limit spending, raise taxes or increase borrowing. “We’ve got to get real.”

Mr. Voinovich said overall Social Security reform will not happen this year with other issues, such as hurricane-relief efforts, dominating the agenda. “The Social Security thing, in my opinion, isn’t going anywhere,” he said. “It may have been doomed from the beginning because it wasn’t done on a bipartisan basis.”

He added that since much has to be done to get the government’s fiscal house in order, he hopes President Bush’s tax cuts will not be made permanent, as some Republicans propose.

Flood of money

There’s an old adage that no one in Washington can tell the difference between $1 million and $1 billion. Seldom has that Beltway learning disability been more vividly demonstrated than in the weeks since Katrina,” the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore writes.

“When President Bush announced last Thursday that the feds would take a lead role in the reconstruction of New Orleans, he in effect established a new $200 billion federal line of credit. To put that $200 billion in perspective, we could give every one of the 500,000 families displaced by Katrina a check for $400,000, and they could each build a beachfront home virtually anywhere in America,” Mr. Moore said.

“This flood of money comes on the heels of a massive domestic spending build-up in progress well before Katrina traveled its ruinous path. Federal spending, not counting the war in Iraq, was growing by 7 percent this year, which came atop the 30 percent hike over Mr. Bush’s first term.

“Republicans were already being ridiculed as the Grand Old Spending Party by taxpayer groups. Their check-writing binge in response to the hurricane only confirmed, as conservative leader Paul Weyrich put it, that ‘the GOP, once the party of small government, has lost its bearings and the Republican establishment doesn’t seem to get the message that the grass roots of the party is enraged.’”

No run-off

Democrat Fernando Ferrer has enough votes to officially win the New York mayoral primary and will face Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Nov. 8, officials said yesterday.

After a week of uncertainty, Mr. Ferrer edged just past the 40 percent mark as election workers finished counting thousands of absentee and other untallied votes cast in the Sept. 13 primary, Board of Elections officials said.

Officials had said a runoff would have been required by law with the second-place finisher, Rep. Anthony Weiner, if no one had reached 40 percent — even though Mr. Weiner had conceded defeat.

A “painstaking recanvass” found Mr. Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, received 192,243 votes of the more than 478,000 votes cast, Board of Elections Executive Director John Ravitz said yesterday. That put him about at 40.15 percent, or 720 votes over the 40 percent threshold, the Associated Press reports.

“There will not be a runoff between Fernando Ferrer and Anthony Weiner,” Mr. Ravitz said.

Earlier, cheers rang out at Ferrer campaign headquarters as staff members heard the reports.

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

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