- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Answer is ‘no’

The White House yesterday rejected the call by a number of House Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration’s eavesdropping program, the Associated Press reports.

“I think that where these Democrats who are calling for this ought to spend their time is on what was the source of the unauthorized disclosure of this vital, incredible program in the war on terrorism,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

In a letter released yesterday, 18 House Democrats told President Bush that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales should appoint a special counsel. They complained that their efforts to get answers to legal and factual questions about the program have been stymied.

“If the effort to prevent vigorous and appropriate investigation succeeds, we fear the inexorable conclusion will be that these executive branch agencies hold themselves above the law and accountable to no one,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, a member of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

In their six-page letter, the Democrats said the special counsel should investigate any possible violation of federal criminal law, noting that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act says the monitoring of U.S. citizens and residents without a warrant is punishable by imprisonment.

Ace in the hole?

“In 2004, Democratic strategists assumed that the presidential race would be a referendum on the incumbent,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes in National Review.

“All previous presidential elections featuring an incumbent had turned on public attitudes toward him. That assumption made Democrats optimistic: Polls showed that most people felt that the country was ‘on the wrong track.’ Dissatisfaction would naturally translate into opposition to President Bush.

“The Democrats were wrong. Early on, Bush’s strategists had concluded that in a country as evenly divided as ours, the election would be as much about the opposition as about the incumbent. That’s why they started criticizing John Kerry in the spring. President Bush was re-elected with the highest overall vote percentage for any presidential candidate in 16 years — even though, on Election Day, polls still showed that a majority of Americans felt we were on the wrong track. Bush won because a decisive number of them believed that electing Kerry would take us further down that track,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“Even more Americans fear we are on the wrong track now. As Democrats look ahead to the 2006 elections, they think that this sentiment will work to their advantage — this time. Republicans, once again, are counting on the unloveliness of the Democrats to see them through. The Democrats’ flaws could indeed keep them from taking the House or making large gains in the Senate. But it would be risky for Republicans to count on it.”

A mock bill

A Democrat has introduced a bill in the Ohio state legislature that would bar Republicans from adopting children.

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to “introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents.” The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.

On Thursday, the Democrat said he had yet to find a co-sponsor.

Mr. Hagan said his “tongue was planted firmly in cheek” when he drafted the legislation, but the point he is trying to make is nonetheless serious.

Mr. Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by Republican Rep. Ron Hood that is aimed at prohibiting adoption by homosexuals.

To further lampoon Mr. Hood’s bill, Mr. Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that “credible research” shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing “emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.”

Convention hopefuls

Eleven cities have shown interest in playing host to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, twice the number of cities that applied to get the 2004 gathering.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) initially sent out letters to more than 30 cities, giving them an overview of what that entails and ascertaining their level of interest.

The 11 cities that said they were interested: Anaheim, Calif.; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; New Orleans; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix and San Antonio, the Associated Press reports.

The DNC has asked cities to send in their bids by May 19. The DNC’s technical advisory committee will sort through the proposals and visit most or all of those cities sometime this summer. The convention is scheduled for Aug. 25-28, 2008.

Call off the dogs

“Here’s the weird moment of the [past] week,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“White House photographers, affectionately called ‘photodogs,’ were called Wednesday to snap pictures of NASA’s “Return to Flight” space-shuttle crew as members visited with the president.

“As the photographers waited outside in the Colonnade for the call to the Oval Office, a staff aide kept them entertained by playing with Barney and Miss Beazley in the yard. Then they heard a loud whistle from President Bush and hustled to the Oval. But a laughing Bush turned them back: ‘Hey, I was only calling the dogs.’”

Bush at poll low

President Bush‘s job-approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, amid strong opposition to the Arab ports deal and increasing pessimism over the war in Iraq, according to a CBS News poll released yesterday.

Mr. Bush’s overall job approval fell eight points from 42 percent last month, Reuters news agency reports. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they disapproved of Mr. Bush’s performance on the job, the poll found.

Mr. Bush’s previous low job-approval rating of 35 percent came in October, a month after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast and shortly after the U.S. death toll in Iraq reached 2,000, CBS said.

According to the poll, 70 percent believe Dubai-based DP World’s acquisition of operating rights at six U.S. ports should not be allowed to go through, while only 21 percent approved.

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

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