- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

Republican Sen. George Allen defended the Bush administration’s open-ended military commitment in Iraq before a veterans’ group Saturday in Richmond and dismissed his war-wounded challenger’s deep misgivings about the war as “political gamesmanship.”

Democrat James H. Webb Jr., a decorated Marine Vietnam veteran, also addressed the state American Legion convention, saying the entanglement has distracted the nation from effectively confronting global terrorism and new strategic threats.

Speaking in succession, both candidates in one of the year’s most closely watched and fiercely contested Senate races drew the sharpest contrasts yet on Iraq, an issue that divides the nation and has largely defined the campaign.

“Rather than strategic plans to retreat, I believe we need strategic plans for success,” Mr. Allen said.

Though he never mentioned Mr. Webb by name, Mr. Allen clearly alluded to the former Republican who was President Reagan’s Navy secretary. Mr. Webb warned before the 2003 Iraq invasion of a Vietnam-style quagmire and switched parties afterward. Mr. Webb supports an eventual withdrawal from Iraq but has not advocated a certain deadline.

“What is not helpful for the trust in and the credibility of America and our will to win are those who revel in the political world, the world of I-told-you-so, [saying] that we never should have gone,” Mr. Allen told about 300 Legionnaires at a suburban hotel.

“Rather than political gamesmanship, we must unite Americans,” said Mr. Allen, who is seeking his second Senate term even as he pursues a 2008 presidential bid.

At the close of Mr. Allen’s remarks, Legion officers singled him out for a special ovation for supporting a constitutional ban on burning the American flag, which the Senate rejected two weeks ago. Mr. Webb, who opposes the amendment on free-speech grounds, did not mention the flag amendment and received no comparable recognition, even though he is a Legionnaire.

In addressing the Legion, Mr. Webb contrasted his record as a rifle company commander in some of Vietnam’s bloodiest fighting with Mr. Allen’s lack of military service. And, like Mr. Allen, he never spoke his opponent’s name.

“Anyone can say they believe in something. Talk is cheap, and when you put your life on the line, no one can deny that you do believe in something,” Mr. Webb said.

Mr. Allen appeared before the Legionnaires alongside another former Navy secretary and veteran: Sen. John W. Warner. Now chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the five-term Republican campaigned for Mr. Allen, but also praised Mr. Webb for “a marvelous, heroic service in Vietnam.”

After their speeches, Mr. Allen and Mr. Webb separately retired to private rooms in the hotel to tape interviews for ABC-TV’s “This Week.”

Not adjusting

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer opened his mouth again last week.

His latest irreverent oration was about illegal aliens and the cost of educating them.

“I get so irritated that we just open the borders, let everybody in, put everybody in the schools, educate them, all that sort of stuff, and that’s the way it is. And Americans [are] going to have to bear the cost,” he said at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting.

Mr. Schaefer, a Democrat, said the border with Mexico is “like a sieve” and complained that illegal aliens are entitled to send their children to public schools.

“Just walk in, we pay for it, no questions asked,” he said.

Mr. Schaefer uttered his remarks as the three-member state Board of Public Works was approving a contract for English-language proficiency tests for the state’s 30,000 students of English as a second language. The $2.4 million cost of the tests is covered by a federal grant, but the state will have to contribute $373,000 over five years to score the tests and train teachers to administer them.

The board eventually approved the contract without dissent from Mr. Schaefer, the 84-year-old former governor and former mayor of Baltimore.

It wasn’t Mr. Schaefer’s first time criticizing those whose primary language is not English. In May 2004, he used a Board of Public Works meeting to complain about a trip he made to a McDonald’s where the counter worker didn’t speak the language well.

“I don’t want to adjust to another language. This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us,” Mr. Schaefer said then.

Mr. Schaefer did not apologize for the McDonald’s remark, though he did write a letter of apology to the woman who brought coffee to his table.

Kim Propeack, advocacy director for Hispanic rights group CASA of Maryland, said it didn’t make sense for Mr. Schaefer to criticize people who don’t speak English well and then criticize funding to teach them.

“People are overwhelmingly supportive of immigrants who are trying to learn English,” she said.

The comptroller is running for a third term this fall, with more spirited opposition from his own party than in recent elections. He must defeat a state delegate and a county executive in the Democratic primary, then face a Republican challenger in the general election.

Signed, delivered

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp’s mayoral campaign insists she will qualify easily for the Democratic primary ballot even as campaign spokesman Ron Eckstein confirms a WTOP Radio report that some homeless people who circulated Mrs. Cropp’s nominating petitions were paid by the signature.

Although paying circulators is legal, the reports could lead to a challenge of Mrs. Cropp’s petitions like the one four years ago that got Mayor Anthony A. Williams kicked off the primary ballot. He was re-elected after winning the primary as a write-in candidate.

Mr. Williams was booted after an inspection of his petitions revealed page after page of the same signatures. Campaign officials eventually acknowledged paying circulators by the signature.

Mr. Eckstein said Mrs. Cropp’s campaign submitted 15,000 voter signatures by Wednesday’s deadline, 13,000 more than required by the city’s elections board.

Campaign staff said they checked 4,000 signatures against voter rolls to verify them in case of challenges.

They love a parade

Fourth of July festivities in some Baltimore-area communities meant a chance for some politicking by candidates for the state’s top offices.

They were on parade in Towson, where Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, marched behind world champion figure skater Kimmie Meissner, the parade’s grand marshal.

Also marching in the parade on a hot and steamy day was Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, Mr. Ehrlich’s Democratic rival. Both men also appeared at three other parades in Baltimore County.

The parades also included appearances by the leading Democrats running for the U.S. Senate seat — U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Inaction angst

D.C. Deputy Mayor Edward D. Reiskin said he is disappointed that the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary has not acted on an amendment that would allow police officers to use surveillance cameras every day throughout the city.

“This was something that the mayor was very interested in pursuing on a much faster track,” said Mr. Reiskin, the District’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice. “It’s disappointing. I haven’t gotten a good explanation” for the delay.

The amendment, which was introduced to the council by Mr. Reiskin’s office more than two months ago, would expand the Metropolitan Police Department’s network of closed-circuit cameras and allow police to watch “for regular anti-crime activity” in a pilot program.

It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by at-large Democrat Phil Mendelson, who said the committee has not been able to act on the proposal because Mayor Anthony A. Williams submitted too many bills in May.

“The mayor’s anxious to see the bill move. Of course, he waited until May to submit the bill,” Mr. Mendelson said. “The mayor submitted several bills back in May, and we’re working our way through them. It makes it hard for us to get these things done as soon as folks want.”

The council goes on recess this week, and a public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for early October. Mr. Reiskin said there is “no reason” the hearing could not have been scheduled before the council recess.

“We would obviously be hoping that [the bill be placed] on a fast track,” he said.

New horizons

Former Frederick, Md., Mayor James S. Grimesis stepping back into electoral politics by running as a Republican for judge of the Frederick County Orphans’ Court.

The three-judge panel makes decisions regarding juveniles whose parents have died and decides certain property disputes.

Mr. Grimes, who served two terms as mayor from 1994 until his defeat in 2002, told the Frederick News-Post that he was running for the position because “I thought this was another way I could help individuals in their life desires.”

The three sitting judges — Republicans Timothy S. May, John M. Tregoning and Patricia A. LaGrange — are all running for re-election.

Stepping down

A Chesterfield County, Va., supervisor who committed misdemeanor sexual offenses relented last week and said he would resign, effective yesterday.

A week earlier, Edward B. Barber, 50, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery against a 16-year-old girl as part of a plea agreement. He originally was charged with one felony count each of aggravated sexual battery and object sexual penetration.

He was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended, and must submit to a sex-offender evaluation. He was placed on three years’ probation and must serve 100 hours of community service.

“No person can be more disappointed and sorry than I that my service will be concluded in this manner,” Mr. Barber wrote in a letter obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “But I believe this is what is best for my family, the Midlothian District and Chesterfield County.”

Mr. Barber at first said he would not give up his seat on the board, on which he has served since 1992. He earns $29,982.70 annually in that role.

News of his plans to keep his post was met with sharp criticism from the public and from various political bodies.

Mr. Barber already had been suspended from his job as a physical education teacher at Crenshaw Elementary School. School officials said his contract would not be renewed.

The charges did not involve a student at the school.

Gary Emerling and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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