- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Oh, no, not again

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday accused Republicans of “playing the fear card” of terrorism to win elections and said Democrats cannot keep quiet if they want to win in November.

The New York Democrat, facing re-election this year and considered a likely White House candidate in 2008, said Republicans won the past two elections on the issue of national security and “they’re doing it to us again.”

She said a speech by presidential adviser Karl Rove two weeks ago showed the GOP’s election message is: “All we’ve got is fear, and we’re going to keep playing the fear card.”

In that speech, Mr. Rove said many Democrats had a pre-September 11 worldview as shown by their opposition to the Patriot Act and warrantless eavesdropping on phone calls between terror suspects and people in the United States. He said that should be an issue in this fall’s elections.

Mrs. Clinton told a convention of United Auto Workers in Washington that Democrats should not be afraid to question Mr. Bush’s handling of the war, the Associated Press reports.

“I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to fighting terrorism and standing up for national homeland security,” she said.

Breyer’s method

Justice Stephen G. Breyer says he frequently makes decisions about a law’s constitutionality by considering its purposes and consequences, which puts him at odds with fellow justices who try to adhere strictly to the language of the Constitution.

Justice Breyer, on the court since 1994, didn’t single out any particular justice or discuss his new colleagues, John G. Roberts Jr.and Samuel A. Alito Jr., during his speech Tuesday at the University of Chicago Law School.

Justice Breyer talked about other differences in how the justices make decisions, saying they can consult six basic criteria in assessing a law: the language of the law, the history of the text, tradition behind the text, precedents, the purpose of the law and the consequences of letting the law stand or striking it down.

“I tend to emphasize purpose and consequences,” said Justice Breyer, who was nominated for the high court by President Clinton. “Others emphasize language, a more literal reading of the text, history and tradition — believing that those help you reach a more objective answer.”

Please don’t stop

“When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the nation’s electronic eavesdropping program to a Senate panel Monday, members from both parties huffed and puffed about concerns the effort was illegal,” New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Democrats were harsh in their harrumphing, while Republicans more politely expressed their doubts,” Mr. Goodwin observed. “But there was one word nobody used: STOP. Not a single senator, to my knowledge, waved a cease-and-desist demand.

“Indeed, during weeks of controversy over the program, STOP seems to have disappeared from the English language. It’s the word no one dares say. The loudest critics — i.e., Democrats and the New York Times — routinely call President Bush and Gonzales everything from liars to lawbreakers. But STOP the surveillance? They’re not there yet.”

On the hot seat

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt was on Capitol Hill yesterday to talk about the department’s fiscal 2007 budget proposal, but most members wanted to question him about the new Medicare prescription-drug program.

“We’re 38 days into the biggest change,” in Medicare’s history, Mr. Leavitt told members of the House Ways and Means Committee, promising that Americans will be “more than pleased” with the savings they see from the program.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said a woman in his district couldn’t get her drugs covered under the program. Mr. Leavitt said there is coverage for people like her and he’d look into helping her.

While a number of legislators criticized the program, others came to Mr. Leavitt’s defense. “I for one, think it’s working pretty well,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, agreed, noting that because drug plans are now competing for seniors’ business, average monthly premiums are estimated to be reduced from $37 a month to $25 a month.

Boxer’s plea

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is urging anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan not to challenge the state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, in the June Democratic primary, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Mrs. Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, has been actively considering a campaign after criticizing Mrs. Feinstein for refusing to call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

But Mrs. Boxer, who strongly opposes the war in Iraq, said Mrs. Sheehan might actually hurt her anti-war cause by jumping into the race against her fellow Democrat, who is entering her 14th year in the Senate.

“I don’t think having her in the Senate election helps her at all,” Mrs. Boxer told a roundtable of California reporters on Tuesday. “I think it might have the opposite effect.”

The same bill?

With great fanfare, President Bush signed a package of entitlement-spending cuts into law yesterday. Or then again, maybe he didn’t.

It turns out the bill that passed the House last week was not exactly the same bill that passed the Senate, reports Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times.

The Senate acted first, but after it passed the bill a clerk accidentally changed a number from what it was supposed to be to “36 months” at one point in the bill, according to Republican aides. That incorrect version then passed the House, but afterward a House clerk caught the error and changed it back. But the House never went back to vote on the correct version.

As the House Rules Committee’s Web site notes, “the Constitution mandates that both chambers must pass the same measure in precisely the same form before it can become law.”

The Republican aides said it was an honest mistake by a clerk, and they are assuming the bill is now law. As of last night, Democratic aides said they were willing to allow the situation, but were reviewing the bill to make sure there was no other mischief.

Award winner

Michelle Malkin, whose syndicated column appears regularly in this newspaper, will receive the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s Woman of the Year Award on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference here.

The presentation will be made by the institute’s president, Michelle Easton, at the group’s Helen C. Richardson National Mentoring lunch before 250 young female student activists.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-285 or [email protected]

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