- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Take your pick

Did former President Gerald R. Ford support the invasion of Iraq? It depends on what newspaper you read.

Thomas M. DeFrank, New York Daily News Washington Bureau chief, said Mr. Ford told him on May 11, in what turned out to be the ex-president’s last interview, that President Bush was justified in ousting Saddam Hussein, but that Mr. Bush made a mistake in emphasizing the Iraqi leader’s suspected weapons of mass destruction.

“Ford was a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday as we chatted for about 45 minutes,” Mr. DeFrank said in a column published yesterday. “He’d been visited by President Bush three weeks earlier and said he’d told Bush he supported the war in Iraq but that the 43rd president had erred by staking the invasion on weapons of mass destruction.

“ ’Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him,’ he observed, ‘but we shouldn’t have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction. That was a bad mistake. Where does [Mr. Bush] get his advice?’ ”

However, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post reported yesterday that Mr. Ford, in a July 2004 interview, said he opposed the war.

“I don’t think I would have gone to war,” Mr. Woodward quoted the former president as saying.

However, other quotes in the Woodward story seemed to back up the Daily News version, with Mr. Ford objecting not so much to the war, but to the way it was justified.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Bush “made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq,” Mr. Woodward quotes the former president as saying. “They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction. And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”

The ‘outsider’

“When the reliable Des Moines Register poll two weeks ago showed former vice presidential candidate John Edwards leading in Iowa with 36 percent, people were surprised,” Margaret Carlson writes at www.bloomberg.com.

“How did he do that in a year when it has been Hillary and Everyone Else, then Hillary, Obama and Everyone Else? Quietly, very quietly, which is the best way for a Democratic has-been to have any hope of becoming a could-be,” Mrs. Carlson said.

“Democrats hate their losers. Unlike Republicans who routinely give theirs a second chance (see Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole), Democrats would remove all memory of theirs if they could, like latter-day Kremlinologists. (See George McGovern, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, though the last doesn’t know he is over.)

“Al Gore may be the exception. Having taken on many lives — college professor, itinerant preacher on global warming, Wall Street banker and potential Oscar-winning filmmaker — there are some Democrats asking him to run. Edwards may have telescoped Gore’s six years in exile into two as he emerged from his own Elba to announce his candidacy [yesterday] in New Orleans.

“Having moved out of Georgetown in Washington to his native North Carolina — where he built a new house, took care of his wife who learned in the final week of the campaign that she had cancer, joined an investment-banking firm and tended to the family foundation established in memory of son Wade Edwards, who was killed in a 1996 car accident at age 16 — John Edwards has shed his inside-the-Beltway skin for that most desirable of guises: the Washington outsider.”

History lessons

“Republican administrations have been notorious for leaving their wounded on the battlefield,” John Gizzi writes at HumanEvents.com.

“One hears now from candidates who carried the GOP banner last month and lost, how little hope they have that the Bush administration will give them a position that may resurrect their careers. Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, for example, lost a bid for the Senate in his state but was considered one of the GOP’s brightest stars of ‘06. The chairmanship of the Republican National Committee was clearly dangled in front on him — if nowhere else, among the RNC members themselves and in the press — and Steele said he would take it. But no offer was forthcoming.

“Talking to a defeated Republican House member recently, I suggested that the soon-to-be former lawmaker might be the president’s choice for U.N. ambassadorship after John Bolton’s resignation.

“ ’That makes sense,’ replied the member. ‘But do you really think the administration has thought it out in those terms?’

“It wasn’t always this way. Having tasted painful defeat himself, Richard Nixon had a soft spot for losing candidates when he was president. Former Hartford, Conn., Mayor Ann Uccello, who made a race for Congress in a heavily Democratic district at Nixon’s request and lost in 1970, was given a key post in the Department of Transportation. John Chafee, defeated for re-election as governor of Rhode Island, was tapped as secretary of the Navy. And the loser of his second bid for the Senate from Texas was given the plum assignment that saved him from political oblivion: U.N. ambassador. His name was George H.W. Bush.

“And the rest is history.”

Praise for Bush

“President George W. Bush, vilified by many, supported by some, is a hero to me,” former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“Why do I say that? It’s not because I agree with the president’s domestic agenda. It’s not because I think he’s done a perfect job in the White House,” Mr. Koch said.

“George Bush is a hero to me because he has courage. The president does what he believes to be in the best interest of the United States. He sticks with his beliefs, no matter how intense the criticism and invective that are directed against him every day.”

Fines double

The Federal Election Commission more than doubled its civil penalties in 2006, imposing $6.2 million in fines for campaign-law violations.

More than half — $3.8 million — came from penalties against Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage corporation accused of making illegal contributions to political committees, according to year-end numbers released yesterday.

Even without the record Freddie Mac fine, the FEC issued 12 penalties of more than $100,000, or almost a quarter of all six-figure fines in the agency’s 31-year history.

“I’m very pleased with the vigorous enforcement record the FEC compiled in 2006. The numbers speak for themselves,” FEC Chairman Michael Toner said in an interview with the Associated Press.

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

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