- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

Laura vs. Hillary

First lady Laura Bush yesterday told The Washington Times it was “ridiculous” for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to say that Republicans run the U.S. House like a “plantation.”

“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said while flying back to the United States from Africa. “It’s a ridiculous comment — that’s what I think.” Mrs. Clinton made her comment in Harlem on Monday, at a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King.

Mrs. Bush also reacted to New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s remarks on Monday that “God is mad at New Orleans” and that he wanted the hurricane-racked city to be rebuilt as “chocolate,” or predominantly black.

“I don’t really think I can speak for God,” she said in response to questions from The Times. “On the other hand, I do know that He wants New Orleans to be rebuilt. He wants people who lived there to come back.

“And I do, too,” she added. “And I know the president does, too.”

Mrs. Bush was sympathetic about the “chocolate” remark, for which Mr. Nagin has apologized.

“I understand Mayor Nagin’s desire to have New Orleans be like it was,” she said. “We want that special flavor that New Orleans had that was wild and diverse and was what makes New Orleans so interesting.”

Mrs. Bush’s four-day tour of West Africa included stops in Ghana, Liberia (for the inauguration of the continent’s first elected female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf) and Nigeria.

Mark your calendar

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter announced yesterday that the public hearing on the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush will be held 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 6.

The hearing is titled “Wartime Executive Power and the NSA’s Surveillance Authority.” The only listed witness is Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

Easter parade

“For over a hundred years, children have gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on the Monday after Easter to roll Easter eggs across the yard and meet the Easter Bunny,” Mark D. Tooley writes at the Weekly Standard’s Web site, www.weeklystandard.com.

“Seemingly few (if any) Washingtonians have ever tried to exploit the annual White House Easter Egg Roll for political purposes. Until now. A church-based homosexual-rights group is planning to crash the event with a ‘family visibility action’ to spotlight their non-traditional families,” said Mr. Tooley, who directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

“‘On April 17, 2006, when the White House lawn is opened to families for the Annual Easter Egg Roll, imagine if the first 1,000 families onto the lawn were LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] families,’ enthused a Jan. 4 e-mail alert from Soulforce. Once America sees the White House lawn awash in LGBT families, ‘there will be no going back,’ Soulforce promised.

“Soulforce is the political organizing tool of self-described ‘militant gay activist’ Mel White, the former Jerry Falwell speechwriter who discovered his gayness and became a clergyman in the predominantly homosexual Metropolitan Community Churches.

“White and his supporters routinely show up at church conventions and other events to protest, perform acts of civil disobedience and demand that denominations change their teachings about homosexuality. They apply the ‘soul force’ of principles from Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi to the ‘struggle for justice for sexual minorities.’

“According to Soulforce, ‘LGBT’ participants are being urged to gather at the White House gate the night before so as to be the first to enter the next morning. Volunteers will stand in line for ‘LGBT’ parents who cannot do it themselves.

“Although Soulforce insists this will not be a political protest, only a gathering for families, its supporters will arrive with special ‘non-political’ T-shirts to identify themselves as ‘LGBT.’”

Three say nay

Three more Democrats said yesterday they will vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., but party leaders still haven’t decided whether they will try blocking the nominee with a filibuster.

Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, Max Baucus of Montana and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts told reporters yesterday that they will vote against the nomination.

“He’s just not right for America,” Mr. Baucus said. “He’s very polished, and he answered all of the questions I was going to ask. There is just a little too much inconsistency.”

Ms. Mikulski told reporters yesterday that she has “a lot of unanswered questions.”

Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said yesterday that Democrats have not decided whether they will filibuster the nomination, but made clear his opposition to Judge Alito.

“This is a very poor choice,” he said. President Bush “should have gone with Harriet Miers.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, plans to announce his position on the nomination today, according to his office.

Watts joins CNN

Former Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican, will join CNN as a regular contributor to offer analysis on politics and policy for programs throughout the network, CNN announced yesterday.

“J.C. is one of the most respected and effective conservative communicators in the nation’s capital,” CNN-U.S. President Jon Klein said. “We are glad to welcome him to the CNN team and look forward to his insightful contributions to our network.”

Mr. Watts served as chairman of the Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking leadership position in the majority party in the House.

Tenet’s book

Former CIA Director George J. Tenet has signed a deal to write a book about his experiences at the agency, publisher HarperCollins announced yesterday.

The book is tentatively titled “At the Center of the Storm.”

“The book will describe what drove Tenet to ‘declare war’ on al Qaeda in 1998, how the CIA operated inside Afghanistan, and what he told senior White House officials in the months leading up to 9/11; it will reveal the worldwide operational plan Tenet set in motion prior to the attacks and the response plan laid down just six days after them, which became the cornerstone for the invasion of Afghanistan,” HarperCollins said.

“Tenet will also offer a gripping narration of the run-up to the war in Iraq,” the publishing house said.

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

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