- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

Buckeye bungle

An Ohio Democrat’s blunder has dimmed the Democratic Party’s hopes of taking control of Congress in November.

Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland is running for governor of Ohio, vacating his seat representing Ohio’s 6th District. Republicans have targeted the seat as one of their best chances for a pickup this year — President Bush twice carried the 6th District.

Democrats had hoped that state Sen. Charlie Wilson could keep the seat in their column — the wealthy candidate had contributed more than $250,000 to his own campaign — but owing to a mix-up, Mr. Wilson won’t be on the ballot for the May 2 Democratic primary.

“Wilson failed to make the … primary election ballot this week after submitting just 46 valid signatures to the Columbiana County Board of Elections,” the Wheeling (W.Va.) Intelligencer reports. “A total of 50 of the 96 signatures he submitted — obtained in Belmont and Scioto counties — were ruled invalid largely because addresses were listed improperly or because the resident signing Wilson’s petition didn’t live in the 6th District.”

Mr. Wilson told the Intelligencer that he will run in the primary as a write-in candidate, but only four men have been elected to Congress as write-in candidates in the era of printed ballots, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Wilson’s petition blunder is “a disaster for Democrats,” Amy Walter, an analyst for the Cook Political Report, told the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. “Here’s a seat they have to defend, and they have been boasting about the quality of Charlie Wilson’s campaign.”

The rifleman

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia fondly remembers carrying a rifle around New York City as a boy and says outdoorsmen should attack the idea that guns are used only for crimes.

An avid outdoorsman who has hunted with Vice President Dick Cheney, Justice Scalia spoke Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s annual convention, the Associated Press reports.

“The attitude of people associating guns with nothing but crime, that is what has to be changed,” Justice Scalia told the audience of about 2,000.

“I grew up at a time when people were not afraid of people with firearms,” said Justice Scalia, noting that as a young man in New York City he was part of a rifle team at the military school that he attended.

“I used to travel on the subway from Queens to Manhattan with a rifle,” he said. “Could you imagine doing that today in New York City?”

Justice Scalia was criticized in 2004 for hunting ducks with Mr. Cheney while the Supreme Court was considering a case involving Mr. Cheney’s energy task force. This month, a lawyer hunting with the vice president in Texas was wounded when he stepped in the way as Mr. Cheney fired at a bird.

The nonprofit turkey federation is dedicated to conserving wild turkeys and preserving hunting traditions.

A Yale man

A former spokesman for the Taliban, Rahmatullah Hashemi, has enrolled as a student at Yale University, where he has taken a class on terrorism, the New York Times Magazine reports.

The ex-Taliban spin doctor and “roving ambassador,” who has spent time in the presence of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, is now a Yale freshman improving his English through a special non-degree program.

Mr. Hashemi, who once publicly defended the Taliban, told the magazine, however, that he started having serious doubts about its harsh moral codes as early as 1998, when women were being lashed with leather strips and executions were occurring in Kabul’s football stadium.

He said he fled Afghanistan for Pakistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks, fearing a U.S. bombing campaign.

Mr. Hashemi, 27, said a former Taliban minister persuaded him to return to Kabul in early 2004 to clear his name with the Americans, despite his fears that he would be whisked to the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After several interviews with two Americans, one of whom identified herself to him only as “Michelle,” Mr. Hashemi said he was told: “You can go.”

A U.S. friend suggested that he apply to study at Yale, so he obtained a student visa from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and caught a flight to the United States.

Puzzled governor

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich wasn’t in on the joke.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, says he didn’t realize that “The Daily Show” was a comedy spoof of the news when he sat down for an interview that ended up poking fun at the sometimes-puzzled Democratic governor.

“It was going to be an interview on contraceptives. … That’s all I knew about it,” Mr. Blagojevich laughingly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week. “I had no idea I was going to be asked if I was ‘the gay governor.’”

The interview focused on his executive order requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control.

Interviewer Jason Jones pretended to stumble over Mr. Blagojevich’s name before calling him “Governor Smith.” He urged Mr. Blagojevich to explain the contraception issue by playing the role of “a hot 17-year-old” and later asked if he was “the gay governor.”

At one point in the interview, a startled Mr. Blagojevich looked to someone off camera and said: “Is he teasing me, or is that legit?”

The segment, which aired more than two weeks ago, also featured Illinois Republican state Rep. Ron Stephens, a pharmacist who opposes the governor’s rule. Mr. Stephens has said that he knew the show was a comedy.

Harry’s harangue

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says if midterm elections were held now, Democrats would win the five seats they need to draw even in the Senate, largely because of the Bush administration’s “general incompetence” at home and abroad.

“This is an administration that is going to be noted for its incompetence, not its accomplishments,” the Nevada Democrat said Friday after a forum on Medicare reforms at the University of Nevada’s School of Medicine in Reno.

Mr. Reid said polls show Democrats winning Republican-held seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Montana, Missouri and Rhode Island.

“And we have good shots in Arizona and Tennessee,” he said. “If elections were held today, we’d pick up five seats. The Senate would be 50-50.”

Mr. Reid told about 100 faculty members, students and community leaders that the administration’s prescription-drug program for Medicare is intended to do away with Medicare altogether, the Associated Press reports.

“Its aim is to give HMOs and other health care plans out there the advantage,” he said.

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

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