- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

McKinney in scuffle

Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney and a police officer scuffled yesterday after the Georgia Democrat entered a House office building without her congressional pin and refused to stop when asked, according to U.S. Capitol Police.

Miss McKinney, a sixth-term congresswoman who represents suburban Atlanta, struck the officer, according to one account, a police official said. The officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident, spoke only on the condition of anonymity, the Associated Press reports.

A legislative source, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Washington Times that Miss McKinney struck the officer in the chest with her cell phone. No charges have been filed, but police told The Times the investigation was ongoing.

By one police account, she walked around a metal detector, and an officer asked her several times to stop. When she did not, the officer tried to stop her, and she then struck the officer, the official said.

Miss McKinney last night issued a statement saying she regretted the confrontation.

“I know that Capitol Hill Police are securing our safety, and I appreciate the work that they do,” she said.

“I was urgently trying to get to an important meeting on time to fulfill my obligations to my constituents. Unfortunately, the police officer did not recognize me as a member of Congress and a confrontation ensued,” she said. “I did not have on my congressional pin, but showed the police officer my congressional ID.”

Republicans dryly noted some irony.

“On a day when the Democrats unveil their national security agenda, it’s probably not a good idea to allegedly strike a police officer,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

Scalia’s gesture

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a scathing letter to the Boston Herald, accused the newspaper’s staff of watching “too many episodes of ‘The Sopranos’” for interpreting a hand gesture he made at a cathedral as obscene.

The Boston Herald reported Monday the justice made “an obscene gesture, flicking his hand under his chin” in response to a question about whether lawyers might question his impartiality in matters of church and state. The incident occurred after he attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

But Justice Scalia wrote in a letter to the editor that the gesture was not obscene at all, but dismissive. Justice Scalia said he explained the gesture’s meaning to the reporter, to no avail.

Justice Scalia quoted from “The Italians” by Luigi Barzini: “The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means ‘I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.’”

Justice Scalia wrote that the reporter concluded it was offensive because he initially explained his gesture by saying, “That’s Sicilian.” He blamed the mistake on excessive exposure to the HBO crime-family drama.

“From watching too many episodes of ‘The Sopranos,’ your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene — especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist,’” Justice Scalia wrote. “(I am, by the way, an American jurist.)”

Frist’s ‘perch’

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says his high-profile job is a “terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible” post for seeking the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Making it clear that a White House bid is all but certain, Mr. Frist said in an interview with the Associated Press that remaining in the Senate would make a presidential run impossible. Mr. Frist plans to step down when his second term ends this year.

“I know the perch not to even consider,” he said. “That would be, for me, the United States Senate or being majority leader.” Asked if trying to run a campaign from such a position would be difficult, he replied: “Terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible.”

One of possibly a dozen Republicans interested in the GOP nomination, Mr. Frist said in the interview late Tuesday that once out of the Senate, “you’ll see, as you do now, the real Bill Frist, but unencumbered by having responsibilities of leading this body, which results in negotiated positions.”

Mr. Frist said he needs to improve his speaking skills, particularly in a campaign.

“I will have to really work hard on it. As a surgeon, I did my best work when people were sound asleep, cutting out their hearts, putting new hearts in. And now what I need to do, everybody says, is do your best work and not put people to sleep. That’s what I’ll work on.”

Corzine’s tax increase

Jon Corzine, New Jersey’s new governor, isn’t the first politician not to follow through on a campaign promise. But rarely is such dishonesty later presented as a virtue. The question for voters to contemplate is whether this is also an indication of what to expect if Democrats gain control of Congress in November,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“Mr. Corzine won the Trenton statehouse last year by running as a tax cutter who’d raise property tax rebates by 40 percent over four years. ‘I’m not considering raising taxes. It’s not on my agenda. We have a very high-rate tax structure. I’m not considering it,’ the then-U.S. senator had vowed in October.

“Well, last week Gov. Corzine removed the Steve Forbes mask and submitted a record $30.9 billion budget that increases state spending by 9 percent and includes $1.5 billion in new levies,” the newspaper said.

“He wants to raise the already high state sales tax by 16 percent and extend it to services; hike taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and expensive cars; and create a new state water tax. And just so Garden State entrepreneurs don’t feel left out, his budget would impose a corporate tax surcharge and a commercial property transfer tax. ‘There are no immediate plans,’ joked one local paper, ‘to tax the air we breathe — not this year, at least.’”

Reiner quits post

Actor-director Rob Reiner, accused of abusing his role as head of a California commission by spending state funds to promote a campaign to fund preschool, resigned from the job yesterday.

Mr. Reiner has headed the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, a state entity that provides services to young children, for seven years.

Legislators from both political parties said Mr. Reiner, an outspoken Democrat, improperly spent $23 million of commission funds to highlight preschool when he was promoting a referendum for the June 2006 ballot that would guarantee preschool for 4-year-olds.

“When you and I spoke over the weekend, we agreed we cannot let personal political attacks get in the way of doing the very best we can for California’s children,” Mr. Reiner said in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As recently as two weeks ago, the director of the film “When Harry Met Sally” said he would not leave the job.

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

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